Ethics, alterity and the rationality of leadership justice

Carl Rhodes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides a critical review and re-evaluation of dominant approaches to leadership justice, arguing that they appropriate justice as a rational means to achieve organizational effectiveness. It is shown that in contemporary management thinking justice is a formal rationality rather than a substantive one. This rationalization of justice belies its masculinization and as a result human values such as love and care are sidelined. The ethical theories of Emmanuel Levinas are drawn on to consider how pre-rational affective relations between people form the basis of ethically informed justice. It is proposed that justice is not a particular variety of leadership behaviour but rather that leadership is the practice of justice. Justice is not here regarded as something to be achieved through particular leadership practices, but is an ongoing condition - an unanswerable question whose response defines the ethical quality of leadership.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1311-1331
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • critical approaches to leadership
  • ethics
  • justice
  • Levinas
  • managerialism
  • Weber

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