Violent innocence:a contradiction at the heart of leadership


Vince, R. and Mazen, A., 2014. Violent innocence:a contradiction at the heart of leadership. Organization Studies, 35 (2), pp. 189-207.

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    The aim of this article is to inform a shift from the idea that we need to have “better leaders” towards a better appreciation of emotions and power relations that make leadership possible and impossible in practice. The article makes two inter-connected contributions to knowledge. First, “violent innocence” is introduced as a construct that is helpful in understanding inter-personal and organizational processes of projection and denial connected to leadership. Second, the construct is used to comprehend a “structure of innocence” in organizations arising from symbolic violence and connected to destructive relations of power that are accepted as normal. Three illustrations of violent innocence are discussed and linked with contradictions that are integral to leadership in practice. These contradictions emerge from particular dynamics: that leadership is often undertaken in a hostile environment covered up with positivity; that it is informed by strategies that create relations of dependence and domination; that it is inseparable from the exercise and experience of power; and that it is bound up with projective dynamics that connect the “unwanted self” of the leader with systemic processes of destruction. The article concludes with a discussion of the productive consequences of integrating the “dark side” into our understanding of leadership practice.


    Item Type Articles
    CreatorsVince, R.and Mazen, A.
    Related URLs
    URLURL Type Full-text
    DepartmentsSchool of Management
    Publisher StatementOrganization_Studies_2014_Vince_0170840613511924.pdf: CC-BY-NC
    ID Code32503


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