Consultancy as Temporary Leadership: Negotiating Power in Everyday Practice

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Orthodox theories of consultancy address power relations between the consultant and their contractors. However, they can suggest that either the consultant should manipulate those they work with 'for the good', or they should give up their power 'for the good'. This article offers an ethical critique of these points of view and argues for an alternative understanding of power and the role of the consultant. Drawing on a profoundly social understanding of the dynamic between the self and other, the author argues that consultants should engage with others in processes that privilege the exploration of similarity and difference, continuity and change in a shared discovery of the good. Drawing attention to the daily relationships between staff and their own participation, consultants can offer a different opportunity for sense making and a different and temporary form of leadership, where all participants in the process make themselves more accountable to each other.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-293
JournalInternational Journal of Learning and Change
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Consultancy
  • leadership
  • power
  • complexity


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