The SAGE Handbook of Leadership reviewed

January 12, 2012

Book Review by Tudor Rickards

The Sage Handbook of Leadership [Feb 2011, ISBN: 9781848601468] is edited by Alan Bryman, David Collinson, Keith Grint, Brad Jackson, and Mary Uhl-Bien. Sage Publications Ltd,

Sage Handbooks have a deserved reputation as quality scholarly reference texts. This addition to the series has followed the first rule of quality control in such matters, namely that the publishers find a strong editorial team whose members will be able to recruit from a range of contributors covering the main aspects of the subject of the text. The second rule is to permit editorial freedom for the editors to act as gatekeepers to ensure quality control. With some reservations which are indicated below, I found the result meets most of my expectations in these respects.


Collectively the contributors provide thoughtful and scholarly treatmentsof their chosen themes within five sub-sections: Macro perspectives (strategic leadership, charismatic leadership, complexity leadership, and networks); Political and philosophical perspectives (distributed leadership, critical leadership, ethics, and cults); Psychological perspectives (personality, style, transformational leadership, exchange relationships, cognition, leadership development, gender, trust, identity and the ‘dark side’ of leadership: Cultural perspectives (spirituality, aesthetics, and creativity);and Emergent themes, (followership, virtual leadership, emotions, image, celebrity, and the quest for a general theory of leadership).

Individual chapters cover an impressive range of topics which provide informed and up-to-date accounts for the leadership researcher. It might be argued that the topics are largely those found in popular graduate-level textbooks such as the ones by Yukl (a contributor), Daft, and Rickards (2nd edition).


There is an absence of an integrative chapter offering an overview of connections within and across the five themes identified. The editorial decision in this respect was to provide one paragraph summaries of each of the book’s 38 chapters as a first chapter. Researchers and students would probably have appreciated a final chapter which at least indicated editorial consensus and disputed regions.

Upbeat editorial claims

The editors state in the preface:

Leadership pervades every aspect of organizational and social life, and its study has never been more diverse, nor more fertile. With contributions from those who have defined that territory, this volume is not only a key point of reference for researchers, students and practitioners, but also an agenda-setting prospective and retrospective look at the state of leadership in the twenty-first century. It evaluates the domain and stretches it further by considering leadership scholarship from every angle, concluding with an optimistic look at the future of leaders, followers and their place in organizations and society at large.

A key reference point

The book is a key reference point for researchers and students of leadership at the present time. It has rapidly become one of my the texts I turn to first in assessing new leadership ideas appearing in the scholarly literature.

An invitation

The book has made considerable progress in identifying the work emerging from a group of researchers publishing primarily in three leading journals in the field. I would have liked there to have been some mention of more applied work, for example provided by those working at the interface of academic work and communication of ideas to practitioners (Gladwell comes to mind), and leadership scholars such as David Yamada who have preferred the electronic route to communicate their ideas. Perhaps a future edition would find a way to make links with such a community of practice.

Breaking News: English Football isolated from Jose Mourinho

December 14, 2007


This was the week that Jose Mourinho was not appointed manager of the England football team. ITV ran an interesting and intelligent report on the special one. It concentrated on his charismatic leadership style as much as on his achievements.

The TV report was mostly confirmation of a much-told story. One or two of the anecdotes were new to me, and rather striking in their demonstration of a leadrship style that deserves study for its more general description of a charismatic in action.

To put the leadership aspects in context I will draw on the notions of charisma from the monumental studies of Max Weber, as interpreted as a contibution to new leadership research by Alan Bryman, and later by Rickards and Clark.

Weber in translation

Weber was not the first or last German scholar to write in a complex and unforgiving style. His name is frequently mentioned as the father of sociological thinking on charisma. It may be realistic to assume that his ideas might have lost something as they have become distilled into Anglo-American academic folk-lore.

As Bryman noted:

Weber’s writings [on charisma] are highly diffuse, sometimes contradictory, and often [lack] definitive exposition

Weber’s ideas imply that charismatic leadership is an ancient mode of social dominance. The charismatic leader wins power and authority through exceptional personal characteristics. He is indeed the special one, maybe the chosen one. At the extreme, cult leaders are ‘pure’ examples. Followers are also believers. The special one has powers of revelation. He displays symbolic evidence of his unique gifts. He is likely to have been also ‘blessed’ with hypnotising personal presence.

Jose as cult leader

The programme gave examples of Jose’s near mystic powers. Let’s not forget they were backed by meticulous prepararation. We know the mysterious powers of the ancient soothsayers derived from their acute observational powers, and even careful . This is an anticipation of scientific method, although with claims for a quite different epistemology.

One episode was impressively stage-managed. It took place at press conference before an important game in the European Champions League. The press were demanding something. (A sign from the special one?).

His response was startling, but in keeping with the wiles of the oracles of old. ‘You want me to name my team? I will do more than that. I will name their team.’ Which he did. With complete conviction. Live, to camera. He was to be proved completely correct.
[Students of leadership: discuss].

Playing chess with the media

In one interview he was asked if he played chess with the media. His reply indicates the care with which his performance is planned:

When I face the media … before or after the game, I feel it as part of the game. When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started. And when I go to the press conference after the game, the game has not finished yet.

Cult leaders and sacred texts

JM even has a secret document, which records his extended labours. A book of Jose, written by himself. It is said that no-one knows what’s in it. So secret is it that his words will go to the grave with him. Secret, and with the whiff of the supernatural associated with sacred texts which mere mortals are not permitted to see.

Paying penance

After one particularly epic performance by his team, he ordered the players to commit a highly symbolic act. They returned to the field acknowledging their legions of followers. The players removed their shirts. What or who was all that about? The religious symbolism persists. [Students of theology: discuss].

Righteous indignation

Another anecdote reveals the wrath of the special one if an acolyte falls short of expectations. He once publicly rebuked the Chelsea player Joe Cole for a lack of the dedication and work ethic expected of all acolytes. In a game shortly afterwards, Cole scored a magnificently-taken goal, JM gestured to him in agitated fashion from the touchline. When the player approached his manager, he discovered that he was not being acclaimed for the goal, but abused for his lack of commitment to defensive duties in the build-up to the move. The programme claimed that JM eventually succeeded in upping Cole’s contributions to the team ethic, where previous coaches had failed.

Trials and temptations

The program also examined the strained relationship between Mourinho and Roman Abramovitch, billionaire owner of Chelsea FC. The disputed territory appears to have been over the owner’s wish for success both in terms of results, and in terms of style of play. While Mourinho’s personality sparkled, his team failed to capture the imagination -say in the style of envied rivals Manchester United. Abramovitch had taken steps to intervene more directly, acquiring support staff and two expensive players that had not been part of Mourinho’s plans for the future of the club. Among the support staff was Abram Grant, personal friend of the owner, and who was widely accepted to have been installed as likely replacement for JM.

The programme featured a psychologist exploring the messages to be found at film of a press conference held shortly after the arrival of the two international stars Shevshenko and Ballack. His body language is distant. No eye contact left or right. The
The psychologist suggested a desire for ‘total control’ , and in this instance, partial loss of control.

A few weeks later the Special one was gone. ‘By mutual consent, and with great love’.

So much religious symbolism. In the programme, Mourinho ducked questions about his religion, but talked a lot about the importance of love. Like a true charismatic, he seems to have worked out his own ethical philosophy.


Following McClaren’s departure, Mourinho emerged as the strong favourite for England manager in the media and among most football supporters. BBC Radio 5 Live football correspondent Mike Ingham said:

In many ways he would have been perfect ..The job is about giving players an extra 10% and I think he would have done that ..Mourinho ticked all the boxes bar one – I’m not sure how much of a diplomat he would have been.

He might had added on behalf of a minority of fans and English wannabe managers, “… pity he’s not English”.

The Guardian also considered that Mourinho was the FA’s first choice, though Soho Square sources say he was never offered the job and they clearly remained uncertain of his motives. The FA’s caution was borne out when talks between Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes, and the FA director of football, Sir Trevor Brooking, ended with the Portuguese ruling himself out.

Three weeks later, and a complex deal was sealed, and another of the world’s supercoaches, Fabio Capello, was appointed England manager. The special one had just faded from the scene.


Image is:…/38/isolation.jpg
with echoes in the post of the famous headline:
Fog over channel, Continent isolated

[To be continued …]