White Knights: Leadership as the heroicisation of whiteness

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Leadership, 2016, 12 (4), pp. 420 - 448
Issue Date:
2016-09-01
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This article draws on critical race theory to interrogate whiteness in dominant discourses of leadership. We conducted a discourse analysis of the media representations of 12 business leaders engaged in philanthropy in Australia to demonstrate how white practices of normalisation, solipsism and ontological expansiveness underpin the construction of white leaders as speaking for society, mastering all environments and self-sacrificing for the greater good. Our analysis suggests that ‘doing leadership’ is inextricably linked to ‘doing whiteness’, while the invisible presence of whiteness in leadership discourses sustains white power and privilege. By ‘naming’ whiteness and its practices, we aspire to unhinge it from its location as transparent, dominant and ordinary, and begin theorising leadership in ways that are conducive to the goals of racial equality.
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