7 Key practice: critical engagement

This week you have been engaging critically with leadership theory and with a case from the voluntary sector. Critical engagement is perhaps the important practice within leadership and it is something that we urge you to continue.

Danger for organisations emerges when people are unable to speak out in critical ways, because it may be held against them. Leadership scholar David Collinson (2012) has referred to this phenomenon as ‘prozac leadership’. Overly positive thinking in leadership practice leads to a synthetic high, a false positivity that passes over real problems that really ought to be addressed through good, critical leadership and followership. In fact, most of us will have worked in organisations where really bad ideas come to fruition simply because people were too cautious to speak up.

Critical thinking does not need to be purely negative, although sometimes engaging in purely negative thinking can be useful – sometimes ideas just need to be very carefully analysed and thought through. This is really about constructive critique.

Critical engagement means that we are participants, full members of our organisations. We have skin in the game. This means that we can think critically but with a purpose – the purpose being to make leadership in our organisations better.

6 Thinking critically about your work

Summary of Week 2