ResearchPDF Available

Human Rights Leadership: Towards a Research and Practice Agenda for Challenging Times



Recent cases have highlighted how human rights defending is having to reckon with a sustained underinvestment in leadership. This has been shown by the recent Amnesty International UK case for example, which is symptomatic of the field’s wider problem. Globally, the challenge is amplified by the pressures of having to navigate and strategise in increasingly difficult contexts. Human rights organisations and activists are confronting new restrictions on freedom of information, expression, assembly and public participation (see Flower, 2019, this series) which squeeze civic space and introduce new risks. In recent weeks and months, further challenges have arisen for defenders in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Human rights issues such as around poor access to healthcare and the right to water and sanitation may be dramatically worsening in some settings, while governments begin using crisis to silence critics and suppress information (HRW, 2020a; UN, 2020). Complicating matters further are martyrdom cultures in rights-based organisations and a reticence among some activist quarters to engage with questions of leadership. In the academic and practice literature meanwhile, leadership has not been given due attention. Narratives about human rights defending and activism in challenging contexts make at best only fleeting and often implicit reference to leadership with the result that leadership and the contexts for human rights defending remain poorly understood. This working paper presents findings from a review of the literature on leadership in times of stress and crisis. It presents various leadership concepts, frameworks, historical lessons and strategic insights from the academic literature outside the field of human rights practice. This wider literature is vast, and the review presents that which seems most relevant and potentially useful to human rights defending. Overall, the working paper builds towards an integrated research and practice agenda for understanding and supporting human rights leadership. It also aims to serve as reference point on leadership for human rights organisations, movements, practitioners and academics in the field.
Working Paper No. 9
Human Rights Leadership: Towards a Research
and Practice Agenda for Challenging Times
Eric Hoddy and John Gray
May 2020
Image by Sa lly Pilking ton, Morph Creat ive
2Centre for Applied Human Rights
The Human Rights Defender Hub Working Papers Series
This Working Paper Series aims to make research related to HRDs freely accessible and to promote
further discussion and research. The papers in this series present recent research findings, highlight
underexplored issues, and set out theoretical or methodological approaches relevant to research
concerning defenders. Working papers are intended as works in progress. Publication in this series
should not preclude publication elsewhere.
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by the Centre
for Applied Human Rights or University of York. Comments on each paper are welcomed and should be
directed to the author(s).
The Working Paper Series is edited by Alice M. Nah, Martin Jones and Piergiuseppe Parisi. It is supported in
part by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.
About CAHR and the Human Rights Defender Hub
The Centre for Applied Human Rights CAHR is an interdisciplinary research and teaching centre based
at the University of York. CAHR hosts the Human Rights Defender Hub, which aims to: strengthen the
rigour and impact of research on, with, and for HRDs; facilitate spaces where scholars, practitioners,
and defenders engage in critical self-reflection on existing practice and explore new frontiers; and
disseminate research findings to a broad range of actors to impact on policy and practice.
For further information about CAHR and the HRD Hub, contact:
HRD Hub @ Centre for Applied Human Rights
University of York
York YO10 5DD
Tel: 44 01904 325830
Previous papers in the series
Lucy Harding No. 1 July 2015
Protecting Human Rights, Humanitarian
and Development Actors
Maik Müller and
Clemencia Correa
No. 2 October 2017
Integrating a Psychosocial Perspective into
Human Rights and Protection Practices: A Case
Study of Peace Brigades International PBI Mexico
Polina Malkova No. 3 January 2018
Exploring the Term ‘Human Rights Defender’ through
the Lens of Professionalisation in Human Rights
Practice: A Case-Study of Russia
Katie McQuaid No. 4 March 2018
Defenders Across Borders: Congolese Human Rights
Defenders in Uganda’s Refugee Regime.
Sylvain Lefebvre No. 5 April 2018
‘Making’ the Territory: The Spatial Politics of
Peasant Communities
Irina Ichim No. 6 January 2019
The Capacity Building of Human Rights Defenders and
(Dis)Empowerment: An Analysis of Current Practice
Janika Spannagel No. 7 March 2019
The Eectiveness of Individual Casework on HRDs: An
Empirical Study of the UN Special Procedure Cases
Emilie Flower No. 8 December 2019
Pushing Back: Supporting Human Rights Defenders
and Social Movements in Contexts of Shrinking Civic
and Democratic Space
3Centre for Applied Human Rights
About the authors
Eric Hoddy, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, University of
Eric Hoddy is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. He has a
background in development and human rights, with an emphasis on small-scale fishing and farming, rural
poverty and social change. His current research focuses on ‘transformative justice’ and understanding and
developing responses to systemic violence in agrarian settings.
John Gray, Associate, Centre for Applied Human Rights; Executive Coach and Organisational Development
and Leadership Consultant.
John Gray has a background in law, alternative forms of dispute resolution, and individual and
organisational change. His particular interests include emerging forms of leadership, and the development
of leadership in a human rights context.
This working paper was funded by the Open Society Foundations through the HRD Hub, Centre for Applied
Human Rights, York. The authors would like to thank Professor Paul Gready, Director, Centre for Applied
Human Rights, for support and encouragement and comments on earlier drafts. We would also like to
thank the Defenders whose interviews on their experience of leadership informed this Working Paper; and
the participants at the workshop, ‘Taking the Long View: Civil Society Resistance and Resilience’, 4 and
5 November 2019 (University of York), and Piergiuseppe Parisi who provided comments and feedback on
an earlier draft.
Suggested Citation:
Hoddy, E. and Gray, J. 2020 Human Rights Leadership: Towards a Research and Practice Agenda for
Challenging Times. Human Rights Defender Hub Working Paper Series 9. York: Centre for Applied Human
Rights, University of York. Available at:
4Centre for Applied Human Rights
Executive Summary
Recent cases have highlighted how human rights defending is having to reckon
with a sustained underinvestment in leadership. This has been shown by the
recent Amnesty International UK case for example, which is symptomatic of
the field’s wider problem.
Globally, the challenge is amplified by the pressures of having to navigate
and strategise in increasingly dicult contexts. Human rights organisations
and activists are confronting new restrictions on freedom of information,
expression, assembly and public participation (see Flower, 2019, this series)
which squeeze civic space and introduce new risks. In recent weeks and
months, further challenges have arisen for defenders in the context of
the Covid-19 pandemic. Human rights issues such as around poor access
to healthcare and the right to water and sanitation may be dramatically
worsening in some settings, while governments begin using crisis to silence
critics and suppress information HRW, 2020a; UN, 2020.
Complicating matters further are martyrdom cultures in rights-based
organisations and a reticence among some activist quarters to engage with
questions of leadership.
In the academic and practice literature meanwhile, leadership has not been
given due attention. Narratives about human rights defending and activism in
challenging contexts make at best only fleeting and often implicit reference to
leadership with the result that leadership and the contexts for human rights
defending remain poorly understood.
This working paper presents findings from a review of the literature on
leadership in times of stress and crisis.
It presents various leadership concepts, frameworks, historical lessons and
strategic insights from the academic literature outside the field of human
rights practice. This wider literature is vast, and the review presents that which
seems most relevant and potentially useful to human rights defending.
Overall, the working paper builds towards an integrated research and practice
agenda for understanding and supporting human rights leadership. It also
aims to serve as reference point on leadership for human rights organisations,
movements, practitioners and academics in the field.
Implications for practice
Several implications for practice follow.
¢Feminist, collectivist and followership approaches to leadership
provide potentially useful resources for developing human rights
leaders and leaderful behaviour. They can also be employed as
frameworks for helping to guide relationships between human rights
organisations and communities;
Centre for Applied Human Rights
Emerging research examining dicult or ‘extreme’ contexts for
leadership may be harnessed for developing tools to assist human
rights leaders and practitioners in their analyses of strategic contexts,
planning action in complex settings, developing resilient organisations,
and making critical decisions in times of stress and crisis;
Lessons from formal and informal social movements and other forms
of collective action may be a source of insight for human rights
organisations operating in heavily power-laden contexts, such as
where civil and political freedoms are severely restricted. Leadership
and organisational studies fields have rarely engaged with such
contexts and seem a significant source of insight on this question for
the time being.
6Centre for Applied Human Rights
Table of contents
Executive Summary 4
Implications for practice 4
Table of contents 6
Introduction 7
1. What is leadership? 9
1.1 Definitions 9
1.2 Feminist leadership 9
1.3 Collectivistic forms of leadership 10
1.4 Followership and values-based leadership 11
1.5 Emerging research questions 13
2. Leadership and context 14
2.1 Introduction 14
2.2 ‘Extreme contexts’ and crises 16
2.3 Leadership and resilience 18
2.4 Emerging research questions 20
3. Resistance 20
3.1 Resistance in power-laden and non-democratic contexts 22
3.2 Emerging research questions 23
Conclusion 24
References 24
7Centre for Applied Human Rights
In 2019, a wellbeing review at Amnesty International’s London
headquarters revealed serious failures in organisation leadership and
management. At this world-leading human rights organisation bullying
and humiliation were found to be routinely used by managers and
leaders. Multiple cases of discrimination on the basis of race and gender
were identified. Amnesty Sta, the report revealed, had little trust in
the organisation’s leadership. Among sta, there was a feeling that
individual leaders, who often did not share a human rights background,
were motivated by dierent values to theirs. The report highlighted
the emergence of an ‘us versus them’ culture between sta and
leadership/management as a key source of stress and barrier to healthy
organisational functioning. This Amnesty case is symptomatic of a wider
problem in human rights defending that there has been a sustained
underinvestment in human rights leadership to the detriment of the field
(Avula et al., 2019; Ghere, 2013; Satterthwaite et al., 2019.
Accordingly, this working paper responds to the urgency of leadership
development in human rights defending, in particular in situations of
shrinking public space. This practice deficit is reflected in emerging narratives
about human rights defending and activism in such contexts, which at best
make only fleeting and often implicit reference to leadership (for example
Sundkvist, 2018; Kapronczay and Kertesz, 2018. Human rights leadership
and the contexts for human rights defending remain poorly understood
as a result. This review presents various leadership concepts, frameworks,
historical lessons and strategic insights from the academic literature outside
the field of human rights practice, and from some emerging perspectives
on leadership in the context of Covid-19. It draws as well on insights from
eight human rights defenders on their understanding of leadership and their
leadership style and practice. They were interviewed while on a Protective
Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, at the Centre for
Applied Human Rights, University of York. These Defenders work on a variety
of human rights issues in the Global North and South and their reflections
oer a relevant counterpoint to the academic analysis of leadership.
Some key questions have guided and emerged through this review, including
¢What is ‘good leadership’ in the context of a human rights organisation or
¢What do leadership theories bring for understanding leadership in human
rights organisations?
¢What existing leadership styles fit with current Defender leadership
¢Do value-based leadership models fit more naturally with leadership in
human rights organisations and movements?
¢Are there common themes or styles of leadership which can be articulated
from Defenders’ leadership in contemporary human rights contexts?
Centre for Applied Human Rights
To what extent does good leadership contribute to security, management
of risk, and well-being (of Defenders, and those they work with)?
What organisational practices and policies contribute to the security of
human rights organisations and sta?
What risk and resilience practices can be modelled by those in leadership
roles? What contribution can be oered by boards and other organisational
governance structures?
The review is organised around a number of key themes with the potentialto
inform work on human rights leadership. Section 1 discusses some of the
prominent theories and approaches to leadership that appear particularly
significant to human rights defending: feminist leadershop, collectivistic forms
of leadership, and
followership and values-based leadership. Section 2 discusses
frameworks and some strategies that have featured in the work
contexts for leadership. It deals with recent work on ‘extreme
contexts’ andcrises, including how these are conceptualised and might be
responded to, and
associated work on complexity and organisational/leader
resilience. It highlights
the VUCA framework (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex,
Ambiguous) as a potentially
useful tool for human rights practitioners. Section 3
reviews more sociologically-
informed work on resistance and leadership that
engages with power, politics
and gender as matters of context. Each section
concludes with a set ofquestions for human rights leadership that draw on the
content discussed.
Organisations, social movements and gender are drawn on as examples
in the review. The formal organisational basis for human rights defending
globally makes insights from organisations and organisational studies
useful. Organisations do vary enormously from one another. But the various
components that all organisations share in common (structures, institutional
forms, processes and change etc.) can make insights and lessons transferable.
Social movement cases may be useful to human rights defending in a
dierent respect, in particular where defending is carried out through informal
institutions or organisations, where there is a significant membership/follower
base, such as which underpins campaign work, and where activism takes place
in undemocratic and power-laden contexts. The examples of activism and
leadership around women’s rights, which draw on a gender lens, highlight how
gender, activism and leadership intersect in ways that shape leadership practices
and which generate both enablements and constraints on participation. Excerpts
from interviews with Defenders help ground the various concepts, theories and
approaches in the everyday practice of human rights defending.
9Centre for Applied Human Rights
1. What is leadership?
1.1 Definitions
There is little agreement in the literature about how to define leadership.
In his examination of leadership, Northouse 2016 identifies an ‘evolution’
in leadership definitions over the course of the twentieth century and into
the twenty-first that is associated with dierent concepts and components.
After decades of dissonance,” Northouse 2016, p.5 suggests, “leadership
scholars agree on one thing: They can’t come up with a common definition for
leadership.” The bottom line is that leadership “is a complex concept for which
a determined definition may long be in flux.”
The lack of an agreed upon definition of leadership has not however held
back the development theories or approaches for examining processes
of leadership. Among the most widely known and applied definitions
of leadership include trait-based leadership, behavioural theories and
transformative theories.1 Several leadership styles have also been identified
by the leadership literature. Among the most prominent of these are
command and control; situational leadership; servant leadership; facilitative
leadership; transformative leadership and authentic leadership.2 In recent years,
collectivistic and values-based theories of leadership have also emphasised
behaviours and styles of leadership with moral and ethical dimensions. These
may be of especial use to human rights practice and research.
1.2 Feminist leadership
In the first instance, feminist leadership has been distinguished as a form of
leadership that engages with gender power and women’s lack of access to
1 Trait-based leadership theories
emphasise personality or
behavioural characteristics
that are shared among leaders.
Behavioural approaches
emphasise instead how
leadership effec tiveness is
explained by behaviour rather
than traits. Because leaders
are ‘made’ rather than ‘born’,
behavioural approaches
consider processes of learning,
observation and training.
Transformative theories treat
both leaders and followers as
objects of analysis and seek to
explain outcomes in terms of
leader-follower relationships or
processes, where leaders uplift,
inspire and motivate followers
around organisational or
collective goals
2 Command and control refers
to a top-down, hierarchical
approach to leadership.
Situational leadership
emphasises how different
situations demand different
kinds of leadership, requiring
leaders to adapt their styles to
different situations. Facilitative
leadership involves group
decision-making and refers
to the alignment of team
members towards shared goals.
Transformative leadership
describes how followers are
motivated and transformed by
leaders. Authentic leadership
emphasises leaders exhibiting
genuine leadership and leading
from conviction.
Fig 1. The feminist ‘leadership diamond’ (Batliwala, 2010, p.15
Power Purpose
and politics
and values Practices
10Centre for Applied Human Rights
formal leadership positions (Chin, 2007; Batliwala, 2010; Poltera and Schreiner,
2019. Advocates emphasise its potential to foster “democratic, weblike,
collaborative relationships” (Eagly, 2007, xviii; also Chin, 2007 over hierarchical
and autocratic ones, such as which might emerge through command and
control styles of leadership. However, definitions of feminist leadership are
various and are yet to be “fully explored or developed as a feminist construct”
(Batliwala, 2010, p.9.3 Batliwala 2010, p.14 synthesises a number of definitions
from distinct fields to propose a working definition and framework for feminist
leadership in women’s rights work:
“Women with a feminist perspective and vision of social justice,
individually and collectively transforming themselves to use their
power, resources and skills in non-oppressive, inclusive structures
and processes to mobilize others – especially other women –
around a shared agenda of social, cultural, economic and political
transformation for equality and the realization of human rights for all.
This approach encompasses several themes identified in existing leadership
definitions: attributes, behaviours, values and practices that focus on inclusivity,
participation, empowerment, and consensus building; issues of power and
politics which are less visible in mainstream approaches to leadership; and
feminists’ own uses of power when they are in leadership positions (Batliwala,
2010. The feminist ‘leadership diamond’ (Fig 1 captures the core components
that make up feminist leadership for social transformation: i) power, which,
as indicated in Box 4 (p.6, includes leaders’ abilities to examine dierent
forms of power and how they operate in social contexts; principles/values,
such as equality, human rights, inclusion etc.; politics/purpose, by which is
meant analysing socio-economic realities and ideologies informing analysis
and the “longer-term vision and mission for change that emerges from that
politics”; and practices, which refers to how leadership unfolds in practice
and in relation to these other components. This definition and approach has
contributed in a strong way to Oxfam’s work on ‘Transformative Leadership for
Women’s Rights’, which has sought to re-examine concepts and approaches
to leadership in the organisation’s work and to embed it with transformative
feminist leadership practices (Brown et al., 2019; also Azevedo et al., 2019.
Brown et al. 2019; also Wakefield, 2017; Smyth 2015 identify a number of key
characteristics for Oxfam’s programming which include collectivistic modes
of leadership as opposed to “individualistic, potentially atomising approaches”
(Brown et al., 2019, p.24; men being leaders for women’s rights – and not just
partners; combining organisational skills with feminist analysis; intersectionality
in analysis and practice, which includes awareness of race, class, disability,
religion, age and sexuality; and transformations of the “systems, structures and
institutions in which transformative leaders work” in order to embed change
(Brown et al., 2019, p.24.
1.3 Collectivistic forms of leadership
Collectivist modes of organising and leadership may be adopted by human
rights organisations in times of stress and crisis. Collectivistic forms of
leadership were identified by Human Rights Defenders in interviews (Box 1.
These modes of leadership have emerged as particularly relevant amidst the
3 Batliwala (2010, p.10) suggests
that feminist contributions to
defining leadership were strong
in the 1970s and 1980s but that
these are difficult to access
because “it is not available
online or in scholarly social
science journals – it is located
in libraries of universities or
independent women’s studies
centres, in unpublished reports
of meetings, or in women’s
personal archives of the debates
and discussions around the
subject in the 1970s and 1980s.”
11Centre for Applied Human Rights
ongoing Covid-19 pandemic settings, where responses require harnessing
expertise across spaces and sectors for responding to systemic problems
(e.g. Reynolds, 2020; Bond, 2020.
In the academic literature, collectivistic forms of leadership (Cullen-Lester
and Yammarino, 2016; Yammarino et al., 2012 is an umbrella term that
captures a number of approaches, including team leadership (Day et al.,
2004; Burke et al., 2006; complex systems leadership (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007;
network leadership (Balkundi and Kildu, 2005; and collective leadership
(Friedrich et al., 2009. Though these approaches dier from one another they
all engage with collectivist leadership as a type of leadership involving “multiple
individuals assuming (and perhaps divesting themselves) of leadership roles
over time in both formal and informal relationships” (Yammarino et al., 2012,
p.382. The taking on informal leadership roles during circumstances of stress
or crisis was occasionally mentioned by Defenders during interviews (Box 2.
Relationships and roles in such settings are not static “but are rather fluid and
dynamic in nature and depend on organizational and environmental demands
and requirements.” Social movement examples of more collectivistic forms of
leadership are further discussed in Section 3 below.
[Leadership is] someone who could work with the people or with a team
or group of people. You can try to lead them but you must always work in
a collective way, with collective ideas. Leadership is having collective ideas
together and working on them.
Box 1.
The situation forces you to be a strong leader, for example in our sector,
we were several times under pressure, we had problems with arrests,
so in my experience I had always forced to be very strong in some
dicult situations. For example the first time when I needed to decide
or do something that was connected to the arrest of the head of the
organisation and some young leaders who had participated in a peaceful
demonstration. I hadn’t any knowledge about how I would do, I was much
younger, it was the first time.
Box 2.
1.4 Followership and values-based leadership
Interviews with Human Rights Defenders also spoke to some emerging
academic work around followership and values-based leadership. Followership
theory diverges from dominant conceptualisations of followers as recipients
or moderators of leader influence to a perspective on followers as active
subjects (Kelley, 1988; Baker, 2007; Uhl-Bien et al, 2014; Crossman and
Crossman, 2011. For example, where national leadership comes to depend
on active citizen-followers through the latter’s observing of social distancing
advice (Bolden, 2020. In Uhl-Bien et al’s 2014 influential followership
framework, individuals both enact followership in the context of hierarchical
roles (with an emphasis on follower traits, characteristics and styles and
follower behaviour), while also engaging in “following behaviors in ways that
construct leadership” (Uhl-Bien, 2014, p.94. For instance, in a study of human
12Centre for Applied Human Rights
rights leaders in Myanmar White 2015 suggests moral courage has been a key
leadership practice and behaviour that is of value to followers.4
Aspects of followership have been expressed by Human Rights Defenders
in interviews. Defenders indicated the importance of followers – especially
followers who can be constructively critical and challenge the leadership when
necessary, and how leadership arises because other people invest a particular
person with authority or influence (Boxes 3 and 4.
Leadership is taking initiative in relationship? Yes, I agree with that, for
people to recognise your leadership and to see the influence you have, it’s all
about the relationship, and how you play your role in that relationship, and
they can tell and identify whether you have that leadership role and if you
have ability as a leader. You don’t need a lot of followers, but you can have
people who will admire you, who will support you, they don’t have to follow
you. But along they can tell you if it’s not right the way you’re doing it or
leading it, and if you accept the correction then you’re a good leader. But if
you reject it you’re not learning anything.
Box 3.
It’s a very hard process, not a very easy process to bring the changes when
everything is governed by patriarchal norms and we are challenging the
structure, but somehow we achieve a change of mind of people towards
these issues and also we create our space to accept us, and to listen to us,
and in that way they are accepting my leadership.
Box 4.
Behaviours and styles of leadership with moral and ethical dimensions are
emphasised by values-based leadership theories (Brown et al., 2005; May et
al., 2003; Avolio and Gardner, 2005. These theories look relevant to human
rights leadership since it can be expected that human rights leaders are likely
to identify strongly with values. For instance, equality and non-discrimination
emerge as key values driving leadership work on women’s rights (Box 6, p.23;
also Boxes 3 and 4. Values may be religious as well as secular and underpin
the discourses and practices of religious human rights organisations and
movements (Butcher and Hallward, 2018; Mayer and John, 2017. For instance,
human rights law is identified by a leader of the World Council of Churches in
terms of “God-given human dignity” (Butcher and Hallward, 2018.
In respect to movements, Christian values were a significant framing and
narrative resource in the early years of Brazil’s landless workers’ movement
MST, at a time when it was led by sectors of the Catholic Church aligned to
liberation theology (Hoddy and Ensor, 2018.
Ethical leadership refers to “the demonstration of normatively appropriate
conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the
promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication,
reinforcement, and decision-making” (Brown et al, 2005, p.120. For Brown et
al., people perceived as ethical leaders are those that model conduct which
followers consider “normatively appropriate”, such trustworthiness, fairness and
so on, and this makes them legitimate and credible. Feminist contributions to
4 She indicates how
strengthening leadership
requires programmes of action
around “identify[ing] [leadership]
goals and motivations, tap into
their moral commitment, core
principles and values, recognize
the potential risks, utilize their
skills, and work collectively
to change individual and
organizational behaviour.”
13Centre for Applied Human Rights
the theme (e.g. Fine, 2009 have highlighted moral and ethical dimensions of
leadership that are grounded in the feminist ethic of care.
Ethical leadership shares with servant leadership a common concern for care,
trust, integrity and serving the greater good, but departs from it on account
of the stronger emphasis it places on directive and normative behaviour and
servant leadership’s concern for developing people (Van Dierendonck, 2010;
Greenleaf, 2002.
Authentic leadership refers to “a process that draws from both positive
psychological capacities and a highly developed organizational context, which
results in both greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors
on the part of leaders and associates, fostering positive self-development”
(Luthans and Avolio, 2003, cited in Avolio and Gardner, 2005, p.321. The
approach seems especially relevant to recent work around mental health and
wellbeing-promotion in human rights organisations since studies have shown
how leaders in other contexts can play an important role in sta mental health
(Satterthwaite et al., 2019.5 Authentic leadership has been identified as being
preferred by followers and that it helps create positive working environments
(May et al., 2003. Research suggests authentic leaders have acquired self-
realisation or eudaemonic well-being and are able to impact the well-being of
their followers (Ilies et al., 2005.
In interviews, collaboration and trust were emphasised over top-down
command and control, and reliance on personal values and leading in a way
which is congruent with those values were underscored as necessary for
eective leadership. For instance, one defender felt that “leadership is how
to advance, to make humanity thrive, to bring dignity to very many people
who have been denied it.” One Defender indicated a mode of leading akin to
servant leadership when they suggested that “when you serve you also have
the power. They also contribute how they want it to go, and you take what is
good and you leave out what is not good and you go forward.” Some elements
of authentic leadership were also emphasised by the Defender below (Box 5.
Leadership by example; also because to inspire people. If the women or
men came to you and say I want to be like you, I want them to change
themselves. This is because culture is very powerful against us and also
against men. And to encourage people to love himself, love herself. Because
we are told all the time you should feel guilty, guilty, guilty. But I cannot live
my life under the table, invisible; and people think I am brave when I do this.
Box 5.
1.5 Emerging research questions
Some questions follow that draw on insights from followership and values-
based leadership, and which may inform future research:
¢What is ‘good leadership’ in the context of a human rights organisation
or movement?
¢Through which actors (individuals, organisations, formal and informal
institutions, movements etc.) and processes are eective human rights
leadership constructed?
5 Satterthwaite et al.’s (2019,
p.497-498) study of mental
health and wellbeing in human
rights organisations finds that
“Yet, too often, advocates
reported that fostering well-
being is not a real part of the
manager’s role and portfolio
[…] One advocate explained
that ‘there was one case of a
complete nervous breakdown
… management did not assume
any responsibility for that,
and they just claimed that she
had a mental illness that was
not related to work.’ Another
advocate noted that when
a staff member expresses
concerns about health, ‘because
of poor management style or
leadership, the management
will get defensive and will
keep on blaming the staff
instead of supporting the
staff … the staf f are shamed
publicly.’ One advocate who
works with an international
human rights organization
noted that part of the problem
was a lack of training for
managers. This advocate saw
management as traditionally
lacking prioritization, or even
understanding, of well-being
issues: “Just in the past few
years, there has been a
realization that [mental health]
is a problem. Even just two years
ago, we discussed these issues at
a meeting, and managers were
responding with ‘I don’t really
see what else we could do.’”
14Centre for Applied Human Rights
¢How might a research and practice agenda on human rights followership
add to, support or strengthen an agenda on leadership?
¢What existing leadership styles fit with current Defenders’ leadership
¢Are there common themes or styles of leadership which can be articulated
from Defenders’ leadership in contemporary human rights contexts?
¢What can definitions and frameworks of feminist leadership bring to
human rights defending?
¢Do values-based leadership models fit more naturally with leadership in
human rights organisations and movements? What does a values-based
leadership imply for women’s leadership, and gender relations?
¢What do leadership theories bring for understanding leadership in human
rights organisations?
¢How are conflicting values negotiated in processes of human rights
leadership and decision making?
¢Where can values-based leadership in human rights defending break
2. Leadership and context
2.1 Introduction
Collectivist and other emerging theories in the literature build on
developments in the field around improving understandings of the relationship
between leadership and context (Osborn et al., 2002; Oc, 2018; Porter and
McLaughlin, 2006; Johns, 2006. This growing body of literature seeks to
address the neglected role of context (organisational, social and political) in
shaping leadership behaviour and outcomes. In this literature, the “contexts,
contingencies and situations” (Antonakis and Day, 2012, p.139 of leadership
work are the objects of study, understanding of which intends to inform the
development of new explanations for leadership outcomes. For example,
how context influences the type of leadership that emerges, goals, and
eectiveness (Antonakis and Day, 2012; Acton et al., 2019. The theme is
significant because it suggests that understanding and supporting human
rights leadership requires awareness of and responses to the interactions and
interrelations between leaders and context.
Several recent and oft-cited articles have contributed frameworks identifying
core contextual factors considered relevant to leadership and organisational
contexts, helping steer empirical research on the topic. For instance, key
components of contexts that are internal to organisations are distilled out in
Porter and McLaughlin’s 2006 review, and include:
¢culture/climate, such as whether organisational culture is adaptive or
bureaucratic and whether there is a cultural emphasis on ethics;
¢the goals, missions and strategies of individuals, groups and organisations;
15Centre for Applied Human Rights
¢state and condition, such as whether the organisation is in a state of
stability or crisis;
¢and organisational structure, such as the degree of formalisation and
A cultural component is developed further by Antonakis and Day’s 2012, who
identify the objective and subjective dimensions of culture as both a potential
antecedent to leadership behaviour and as an influencer on the relationship
between leadership and outcomes. As indicated in feminist leadership thinking,
masculinised organisational cultures for example can shape leadership styles:
“often women leaders […] believe that they must adapt their leadership style
accordingly. Women leaders are often bound by these perceptions that
constrain them to their gender roles and influence their leadership styles and
behaviors. At the same time, these same behaviors may be defined as signs of
ineective leadership” (Chin, 2007, p.7.
The contextual components that are external to the organisation are captured
in a recent contribution by Oc 2018, who adapts Johns’s 2006 framework
for organisational context to examine leadership. Two levels of analysis are
delineated: an ‘omnibus context’ that describes the context as a whole in
reference to the questions, ‘who?’, ’where?’, ‘when?’ and ‘why?’; and a ‘discrete
context’ nested within the former that refers to “specific situational variables
that influence behaviour directly or moderate relationships between variables”
(Johns, 2006, p.319. Adapted for leadership, these terms refer to the following:
¢‘where’, in the omnibus context, refers to the influence of location on
leadership, and may include culture as a factor, such as how culture
dierently construes leadership qualities (Martin et al., 2013; and
institutions of the wider environment that prescribe rules, norms and
requirements and from where legitimacy can be obtained. Human rights
leaderships that have been forced into exile can generate particular
challenges for instance, such as the need to recalibrate, strategise and
eect change from the outside-in and respond to novel strategies of state
repression (Michaelsen, 2018; Dunne and Hamzawy, 2019.
¢‘who’ refers to the actors in a leadership process and can be examined in
terms of characteristics such as sex;
¢‘when’ refers to events such as organisational change, economic conditions
and crisis situations, about which more is written below (Oc, 2018.
Research on leadership around the ‘discrete context’ meanwhile has engaged
with several themes:
¢‘task’, that is the task-related factors such as the complexity of the job or
task and the mode of leadership that arises (Wang et al., 2014;
¢‘social context’, which refers to social factors such as social networks and
their characteristics (Cullen-Lester et al., 2017;
¢the ‘physical context’ which refers to the spatial distance between leaders
and followers;
¢and temporal context (Oc, 2018 that refers to factors such as time
pressure and perceptions of threat (Barrett et al., 2011.
16Centre for Applied Human Rights
2.2 ‘Extreme contexts’ and crises
Within this broad literature, research on ‘when’ and ‘where’ contextual factors
influencing leadership appear to be of most immediate relevance to the
question of human rights leadership in times of crisis and stress. These factors
are captured for instance in much of the recent literature on human rights
activism in contexts of shrinking public space (e.g. Sundkvist, 2018; Rodrigues-
Garavito and Gomez, 2018.
One recent stream of literature that speaks to these themes has considered
extremities of context and its relation to leadership (Bamberger and Pratt,
2010; Hallgren et al., 2017. This growing literature on leadership in ‘extreme
contexts’ builds on the ideas originally set out in a review and framework
by Hannah et al. 2009. In this paper, Hannah et al. developed a typology
of extreme contexts and the influences these have on leadership, viewing
leadership as a contextualised phenomenon unfolding amid “particularly
unique contingencies, constraints and causations” that characterise extreme
contexts, events and conditions (Hannah et al., 2009, p.898.
What makes contexts extreme is that these events exceed the capacity of an
organisation to prevent them and the impacts that follow. For instance, the
operating environment for human rights organisations in Egypt post-20136
became increasingly extreme, such that many leaders were forced to disband
their organisations, change their work or go into exile (OpenGlobalRights,
2018. Extreme events requiring responses might include the arrest of leaders
and followers, or the implementation of repressive laws or measures, such as
China recently introduced under the guise of public health HRW, 2020b).
Leadership responses influence contexts in ways that intensify or attenuate
levels of extremity, and Hannah et al. introduce several such attenuators
(psychological, social, organisational resources) and intensifiers (time and level
of complexity). Crucially, Hannah et al.’s framework suggests a contingent
approach to leadership under extreme conditions, where adaptive leadership is
likely to vary across situations and contexts. A general definition of leadership
in extreme contexts is put forward as
“adaptive and administrative processes of influencing others to
understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do
it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective eorts to
accomplish shared objectives and purpose under conditions where
an extensive and intolerable magnitude of physical, psychological,
or material consequences may exceed an organization’s capacity
to counter and occur to or in close physical, social, cultural, or
psychological proximity to organization members” (Hannah et al.,
20 0 9, p.913.
Insights drawing on an earlier – if narrower – literature on crises and crisis
leadership and management have sought to enhance how extreme contexts
are understood and dealt with (Hallgren et al., 2017; Stern, 2017. Stern
2017 for instance identifies contexts and organisations which were not
initially considered by Hannah et al. 2009 and which may share common
features with the practice of human rights defending, such as “acute
political or economic crises involving threats to civil liberties, rule of law,
6 Egypt underwent a military
coup in July 2013 which
removed the President of Egypt,
Mohamed Morsi, from power.
17Centre for Applied Human Rights
individual and national prosperity”, public leaders and institutions, and
leaders in media organisations employing journalists working in hostile or
dangerous environments.
There are a number of key references and themes of interest in the crisis
literature in this regard. Boin et al.’s 2017 work deals with public leaders
and institutions in circumstances of crisis in the public domain, which they
define as a “a serious threat to the basic structures or the fundamental values
and norms of a system, which under time pressure and highly uncertain
circumstances necessitates making vital decisions.” The emphasis on values
and norms in their approach points to the need to consider the subjectively
perceived and socially constructed nature of threats and crises as opposed to
treating these as purely objective phenomena. They indicate that crises can
be very much ‘in the eye of the beholder’, with people’s “frames of reference,
experience, and memory, values and interests [determining] their perceptions
of crisis” (Boin et al., 2017, p.138.
In addition, several reviews have sought to synthesise the crisis leadership and
management literature (Hallgren et al., 2017; Bundy et al., 2017; Williams et al.,
2017 in the direction of extreme contexts. Hallgren et al.’s 2017 review of the
literature on extreme contexts research leads them to propose a taxonomy
of extreme contexts on the basis of studies examined and the kinds of
organisational responses that have been found to occur.
¢‘Risky contexts’ captures organisation strategies in situations of “near-
constant exposure to potentially extreme events” (Hallgren et al., 2017,
p.11. Several research themes characterise the work on risky contexts
and are identified in Hallgren et al.’s review: risk management by
organisations, namely how organisations design their operations in
environments where there are knowable and specified risks with serious
consequences; responses to risk by individuals, teams and organisations,
such as initiating ‘team scaolding’ strategies (Valentine and Edmondson,
20147; the role of stakeholders in risky contexts, for example upon whom
at-risk human rights organisations might depend for resources, operating
licences and less tangible phenomena such as legitimacy (Desai, 2011;
and lessons learned from managing risk.
¢A second context identified in their review is one where the potential for
catastrophe that characterised ‘risky contexts’ has become actualised.
Research into ‘emergency contexts’ considers organisational responses
to actual events, such as the arrest of an activist, and, like risky context
research, comprises a number of themes: how organisations respond
to emergencies, including the successes and failures in adaptive
responses (Bechky and Okhuysen, 2011; Geier, 2016 and the diculties
of reorienting action (Barton and Sutclie, 2009; how emergencies are
experienced by individuals and teams, of which a strong focus includes
emergencies as a site of stress, anxiety, fear and sadness and the
consequences for dealing with them; the role of stakeholders in positively
or negatively aecting responses; and lessons learned.
¢‘Disrupted contexts’ refers to contexts “triggered by extreme events that
occur outside the core activities of organizations or communities” which
7 Team scaffolds are
organisational structures that
allow transitory groups of people
to act like a team. They have
been applied in organisations
where work involving stable
teams is not feasible.
18Centre for Applied Human Rights
catch organisations unaware and which they have therefore been unable
to plan for. Empirical work in this area is organised around two main
research themes in this regard: organisational responses, such as the
creation of teams and organisations that operate in the short term for
dealing with the task at hand, and the role of stakeholders.
In terms of what this means for human rights practice, the VUCA framework
oers a potentially helpful avenue that moves beyond descriptions of context
to identify a typology of risks/unstable contexts which Defenders are
grappling. First coined in 1985 (Bennis and Nanus, 2007, the acronym VUCA
(Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) aims to distinguish between the
dierent types of external challenges which threaten organisations:
¢complexity, which is arguably its core concept (Ferrari et al., 2016,
refers to where there is high interconnectedness of parts and variables,
preventing complete analysis or leading to similar processes delivering
dierent outcomes;
¢volatility refers to turbulence, and the speed and nature of changes in
the environment;
¢uncertainty concerns the impossibility of prediction and of being able to
evaluate a situation properly;
¢ambiguity refers to the lack of clarity about the meaning of events.
The potential value of VUCA analysis is that it may help Defenders and
organisations assess their external challenges more accurately and identify
relevant leaderful actions for individual or organisational security, or
eectiveness in human rights practice.
2.3 Leadership and resilience
Insights into extreme contexts, crises and leadership and organisational
responses may be starting to converge with new work on the idea of
‘organisational resilience’ or ‘resilient organisations’ (Boin and van Eeten, 2013;
Pettersen and Schulman, 2019. This approach draws on complexity science
and systems thinking, at the heart of which is an understanding that cause-
eect relations are non-linear in open systems and that real causes are dicult
to trace. This thinking has become increasingly relevant in the context of
the current Covid-19 pandemic for understanding the spread of infection, its
consequences and how to respond (Reynolds, 2020; Bolden, 2020. Complex
systems leadership, as discussed in section 1.3 above, has emerged from this
thinking as an approach that considers leadership and decision-making in
dynamic and complex systems, such as where apparently positive eects in
one part of the system lead to negative consequences elsewhere or where
feedback loops limit the capacity of systems (from organisations to societies)
to adapt to changing circumstances. Resilience and resilient leadership share
similarities with this approach as one that is widely viewed as a solution to
complex challenges posed by disasters and crises. What is meant by ‘resilience’
is organisational
19Centre for Applied Human Rights
“flexibility, coping with unexpected and unplanned situations and
responding rapidly to events, with excellent communication and
mobilisation of resources to intervene at the critical points […]
[as well as] the ability to avert the disaster or major upset, using
these same characteristics. Resilience then describes also the
characteristic of managing the organisation’s activities to anticipate
and circumvent threats to its existence and primary goals” (Hale
and Haijer, 2006, p.35.
Resilient organisations are considered able to maintain a high level of
performance under pressure and when threats and uncertainties arise. They
are also expected to ‘bounce back’ in the face of unexpected adversity (Boin
and van Eeten, 2013. For example, organisations remaining in Egypt after
2013, such as the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance and the
Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, seemed to exhibit
a large measure of resilience (OpenGlobalRights, 2018. Their responses to
changing context involved measures to cut sta and reconfigure or decrease
their activities (OpenGlobalRights, 2018; Mansour, 2018. Sundkvist 2018,
p.35 shows women’s organisations and activists in the country responded
by shifting towards ‘using the legal framework without mobilisation. And in
Venezuela, Uzcategui 2018 describes how building resilient human rights
organisations required adaptive responses, such as seeking to maintain
higher public profiles and moving towards less technical language in its
communication strategies that allowed more people to understand how the
political costs of attacks on human rights defenders would increase.
Key contributions to the theme of resilience include for instance Woods’s
2016 treatment of ‘four concepts for resilience’ (resilience as rebound;
resilience as robustness; resilience as graceful extensibility; and resilience as
sustained adaptability), and a number of volumes on the theme, such Comfort
et al.’s 2010 edited volume on ‘Designing Resilience’ and Hollnagel et al.’s
2006 volume on ‘Engineering Resilience’. This literature is highly business-
focused and remains largely conceptual however (for a comprehensive review
see Ruiz-Martin et al., 2018.
The bringing of insights from complexity science into leadership studies has
been identified above in reference to a number of contributions to leadership
thinking (such as complex systems leadership), though these do not deal
explicitly with resilience or directly as their subject matter. The academic
literature concerned with the relationship between resilient organisations
and leadership is still rather thin, though some attempts have been made
to develop a theory of ‘resilient leadership’ (Dartey-Baah, 2015. Academic
contributions have sought to identify the characteristics, skills and activities
of resilient leaders (Sutchclie and Vogus, 2003; O’Malley, 2010; Lane et
al., 2013. Lane et al.’s 2013, p.1112 review of the literature for instance
suggests resilient leaders require abilities to be “flexible, adaptable, and
innovative within an increasingly complex and dynamic environment: to be
the leader of change who is prepared to take risks”. To a far larger extent,
resilient leadership has been described by practice-oriented texts, such as
Strycharczyk and Elvin’s 2014 volume on developing resilient organisations,
Pirotti and Venzin’s 2016 book on resilient organisations, and Jacqui Grey’s
2013 book on resilient leadership.
20Centre for Applied Human Rights
2.4 Emerging research questions
¢What are the contingencies, constraints and causations that characterise
the contexts of human rights defending?
¢What are the objective and subjective dimensions of context (and crisis)
that human rights leaders operate in? Has the pandemic setting played
role? Have there been any long-term consequences?
¢How do human rights leaders respond to and seek to shape context?
(strategy, resilience etc.).
¢Are more authoritarian styles of leadership justified in crisis situations?
What implications do such styles have for organisational dynamics e.g.
gender relations?
¢How generalisable are findings on contingencies, constraints and
causations? How suitable are existing context concepts (‘extreme’, ‘risky’,
‘emergency’ etc.) for thinking about human rights leadership?
§How far do these concepts allow us to capture the salient contextual
features of human rights leadership and factors aecting outcomes (e.g.
repressive/less repressive contexts)?
¢To what extent does good leadership contribute to security, management
of risk, resilience and well-being (of Defenders, and those they work with)?
¢What organisational practices and policies contribute to the security of
human rights organisations and sta?
¢What risk and resilience practices can be modelled by those in leadership
roles? What contribution can be oered by boards, trustees, community
stakeholders and other organisational governance structures?
¢What can be learnt from dierent organisational forms – NGOs,
community groups, social movements, literation and political
organisations – about surviving extreme situations and resilience?
3. Resistance
Resistance studies and its associated concepts, frameworks and historical
examples are likely to be relevant to human rights defending, in particular
where defending is carried through informal institutions or small organisations
and where contexts are heavily power-laden. The field overlaps with social
movement studies and shares many of its concepts. Crucially, the common
sociological roots of these fields bring them into convergence with a
more relational and sociological approach to leadership that has begun to
consolidate in recent years. This approach contests the conventional focus
on individual leaders and leader-follower relationships in favour of a relational
perspective that recasts leadership as social and relational processes (Uhl-Bien
et al., 2014; Ospina and Fodly, 2010. Leadership refers to what social actors
do collectively to construct and advance a common purpose (Ospina and
Fodly, 2010; Ospina and Hittleman, 2011; Uhl-Bien and Ospina, 2012; Ospina
and Su, 2009; Pares et al., 2017. The sociological roots distinguish this body of
21Centre for Applied Human Rights
literature from much of the leadership studies scholarship, such as presented in
section 2, and brings in dierent objects for leadership analysis, such as formal
and informal movements.
In terms of organised movements operating in the public sphere, studies
have revealed significant variation in the way these are internally structured.
This ranges from horizontal forms of organising, where the leadership is
informal or appears non-existent, through to more hierarchical structures,
where the leadership is largely unaccountable. In the case of the Landless
Workers’ Movement in Brazil for instance, an ostensibly democratic structure
at the lower and mid-levels of the organisation exists alongside a top-level
leadership where transparency and accountability appear weak (Navarro,
2005; 2006. Navarro explains the adoption mode of organisation as a partly
strategic response to an historically repressive state and to violence and
intimidation initiated by organised landowners in the late 1980s and early
1990s; although he views it as archaic and ill-suited to the post-1990s era.
In contrast, more horizontal and less hierarchical modes of organising have
been identified and examined in studies of recent episodes of contentious
politics that are attuned to context and movement goals (for useful
overviews see Sutherland et al., 2014 and Benski et al., 2012; for Occupy
Wall Street, see Sitrin, 2012; for the Egyptian uprising see Chalcraft, 2012.
Eslen-Ziya and Erhart 2015, p.13 for instance discuss how leadership and
organising in the Gezi Park movement in Turkey adopted a “horizontal,
mostly postheroic, and in some instances, leaderless configuration.” By
‘postheroic’, the authors mean a mode of organising that restricts the
emergence of formal leaders and which fits with movement aspirations to
have the regime replaced with a more democratic, less hierarchical order.
Horizontal leadership in the movement was facilitated by social networking
tools (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) as a “global hybrid context of peer-to peer
communication culture,” and their study seeks to make a contribution to
definitions by suggesting “ideas and common goals may serve as the leader”
(Elsen-Ziya and Erhart, 2015, p.2.
Along similar lines, Cheng and Chan 2017 describe how the activities of
Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement in 2014 counted on a horizontal-network
structure (Sitrin, 2006 and decentralised protest groups. While formal
leadership actors and organisations played key framing and negotiation
roles with the government, daily operations were conducted by a “plurality
of self-organized groups serv[ing] as temporary centres of inuence
through exible networks and overlapping membership. Informal leaders
and protestors exchanged ideas and coordinated participation in joint
actions” (Cheng and Chan, 2017, p.233. Like the Gezi Park case above,
this was aided by social media tools (Whatsapp, Facebook) that enabled
action to be coordinated. The movement’s decentralized, polycentric and
networked structure was brokered, Cheng and Chan 2017, p.234 indicate,
by “the countless informal leaders” that had emerged over the course of
the occupation and “who collaborated with one another through both
online and face-to-face interactions.”
22Centre for Applied Human Rights
Despite the potential strengths of this mode of organising, it may come with
some serious liabilities. As is presently happening in Hong Kong for instance,
the absence of formal leaders can stymie the emergence of negotiated
solutions since the state lacks negotiating partners. Movement demands may
be internally contested, unclear or not forthcoming (Roberts, 2012. In addition,
Marcus 2012 suggests the anti-institutionalism of horizontal organising may
circumvent coercive systems without necessarily subverting them. It may also
mean that some important avenues for freedom are overlooked: “in particular,
those social and economic rights that can only be protected from the top
down. In this way, the anti-institutionalism of horizontalism comes dangerously
close to that of the libertarian Right” (Marcus, 2012, p.58; also Milkman, 2014.
3.1 Resistance in power-laden and non-democratic contexts
Studies have further shed light on protest activity, resistance and leadership
in more power-laden and non-democratic contexts, which may be useful for
research on human rights leadership in similar places O’Brien and Li, 2006;
Chen, 2011; Malseed, 2009; Lu and Tao, 2017; Wu, 2013; Zhang, 2015; Sadek,
n.d.). Power may operate both in the wider social and political context as well
as within movements and organisations. These issues are dealt with in this
section. This literature is significant given that the lion’s share of empirical
cases in the field of leadership studies has been of actors and organisations in
democratic societies.
In the first instance, interviews with Defenders have provided insights that
are consistent with some emerging academic findings on gender in social
movements. This work points towards how gender norms, as a feature of social
context, enable and constrain men and women’s participation in movements.
In one interview, a Defender shed light on how the possibilities for women’s
leadership is constrained by cultural context and how activists strategise in
response to this (Box 6. In the case of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement,
Kong et al. 2018 describe how women leaders in the post-Umbrella period
have been able to claim leadership only when they are in familial or intimate
relationships with male leaders. They emerge as leaders when their male
partners have been imprisoned, yet are conceived within the movement
as politically inferior to their partners. Kong et al. 2018 highlight how
women leaders’ legitimacy is fragile, subject to changing circumstances, and
contingent. Whether they remain in leadership positions depends on whether
their male counterparts are able to reclaim their formal leadership positions.
Violence directed towards women is also highly gendered with the result that
women leaders struggle to participate safely in the political sphere. Ho et al.
2018 situate these movement practices in relation to Hong Kong’s familial
(social) context, where everyday family life is organised along highly gendered
lines in which male members retain decision-making power, and disagreement
is suppressed by appeals to family ‘harmony’ (Ho et al., 2018.
Further, social movement insights address deficits in leadership studies
thinking around leadership in authoritarian contexts. In such contexts, where
political protest may be repressed or severely restricted, with leaders and
followers routinely exposed to acute risk.
23Centre for Applied Human Rights
It is also very challenging for women to become leader, if the organisation
has both male and female then acceptance as a leader is very challenging.
The participation of women in decision making is very weak, especially
when you talk about leadership and about women rights.
However, we cannot group women in all one basket. Women are not a
homogenousgroup, especially in India, society is divided into ethnicity, the
caste system, your geographical remoteness. That was a real struggle for us
to get leadership role in any organisation. And it is very dicult sometimes
to convince your main counterparts of the need to change.
So women activists came together, working in three constituencies: the Dalit
women, the untouchable caste; women from the north-east region, because
geographically we are very very remote and also aected by conflict; and
tribal women, Adivasi. We are victims of structural violence by the state as
well as by the societal structure. These women are always vulnerable. Not
only are they women, they are carrying their caste card, their ethnicity
card, or their geographical remoteness. We are unique in the constituencies
that brought us together in 2009 and formed a network called Women
in Governance (WinG). We came together and we are building collective
leadership. We have a steering committee from dierent groups, we take
decisions collectively.
We didn’t want to be part of the larger general women rights movement
because our voices are never being heard, in India it’s very dicult when it
is a mainstream organisation for us as a leader, and especially these three
constituencies. They are discriminated against in many ways, even in social
movements. We have seen many social movements in Assam where the
leadership is in the hands of men, and if you ask about women issues they
will say ‘We have a women’s wing’, so we ask why can’t women issues can’t
be at the core, but in a separate wing. We know of women who were asked
to leave the movement if they are raised questions about this leadership, her
space, the decision making.
Box 6.
Li and O’Brien’s studies on ‘rightful resistance’ in rural China for instance
examine how claims are made and framed by informal and local level
movements in a context where overt and explicit advocacy politics is restricted
(Li and O’Brien, 2006. Rather than make claims to universal human rights,
rightful resisters frame their claims in relation to protections implied in
ideologies or that have already been conferred by authorities. It often involves
making authorities “prisoners of their own rhetoric” (Li and O’Brien, 2006,
p.23, and enforcing claims through “strict adherence to established values” (Li
and O’Brien, 2006, p.3. Rightful resisters operate close to the formal, approved
channels and strategically seek to exploit tensions (‘political opportunities’)
between China’s central government and its local representatives “where elite
unity crumbles” O’Brien 2013.
Crucially, Li and O’Brien 2008 identify several practices that local level
leaders engage in for promoting responses (rather than ‘reactions’). First,
24Centre for Applied Human Rights
they shape individual grievances into collective claims. They tend to do this
by attributing “villagers’ woes to local violation of a central policy, thus placing
the blame squarely on rural ocials and identifying a powerful potential ally
in the central government” (Li and O’Brien, 2008, p.6. Second, they draw on
their social networks to recruit activists and mobilise the public. Persuasion
and the deployment of moral authority are the two main mechanisms. Third,
leaders devise and orchestrate collective action, which requires making
decisions about the appropriate tactics and strategies for particular situations
and contexts. For instance, they may “elicit an innocuous remark such as ‘it is
lawful to publicize central policies’ from a high-ranking ocial and then use it
as a justification to call a mass meeting in their locality to ‘study policies.’ At
other times, they may mobilise a large number of people and rely on safety in
numbers. Finally, leaders organise multi-village and multi-township episodes
of contentious politics, sometimes creating formal and informal organisations
or groups for communication and decision-making. Other key studies of
movement activity in repressive contexts have considered resistance in pre-
transition Myanmar (Malseed, 2009; and public demonstrations over land
issues in Vietnam (Kervliet, 2014.
3.2 Emerging research questions
¢What is the role of power relations, both within and external to organisations
and movements, in mediating the work of Human Rights Defenders?
¢How do social hierarchies such as gender, age and race and ethnicity,
enable and constrain leadership practices in human rights defending? Are
there specific challenges that are unique to human rights defending?
¢How can an organisational culture of learning from mistakes be created
and supported, especially within external environments characterised by
vulnerability and attack?
¢Does ‘working the system’ provide the foundations for more radical
agendas when the political landscape changes, or legitimise the existing
system while delegitimising human rights?
¢How can authoritarian context be challenged, both in terms of ‘working
the system’ and through the suggesting/implementing alternatives?
The squeeze on civic space in recent years, the recent Amnesty International
UK case, and emerging challenges for human rights defending in the context
of Covid-19 raise again the question of why so little attention has been given
to human rights leadership. This working paper is intended as an initial
step towards addressing this gap. A (non-exhaustive) set of conceptual and
practice-oriented questions has been set out at various places in this working
paper that might be investigated in collaboration with defenders and other
practitioners in the field. These questions are organised around some key
themes identified through this review, namely how leadership and leaderful
behaviour and practices in human rights defending may be understood; and
the contexts for human rights defending, which includes circumstances of
25Centre for Applied Human Rights
crisis or emergency and issues of politics and power in the wider society.
Overall, the working paper begins setting out an integrated research and
practice agenda on human rights leadership that is concerned to develop
new knowledge about leadership in human rights defending and the unique
challenges defenders face; and to find ways of supporting the development of
leadership capabilities and leaderful behaviour.
Acton, B.P., Foti, R.J., Lord, R.G. and Gladfelter, J.A., 2019. Putting emergence
back in leadership emergence: A dynamic, multilevel, process-oriented
framework. The Leadership Quarterly, 301, pp.145164.
Antonakis, J. and Day, D.V., 2012. The nature of leadership. Sage.
Avolio, B.J. and Gardner, W.L., 2005. Authentic leadership development:
Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The leadership quarterly,
163, pp.315338.
Avula, K., McKay, L., Galland, S. 2019. Amnesty International Sta Wellbeing
Review. The Kontera Group: Washington D.C.
Azevedo, A., Garwood, R.W. and Pretari, A., 2019. Bringing about social
justice through feminist research for monitoring, evaluation, and learning? A
conversation from Oxfam GB. Gender & Development, 273, pp.485504.
Bamberger, P.A. and Pratt, M.G., 2010. Moving forward by looking back:
Reclaiming unconventional research contexts and samples in organizational
scholarship. Academy of Management Journal, 534, pp.665671.
Batliwala, S., 2010. Feminist leadership for social transformation: Clearing the
conceptual cloud. New Delhi: Crea.
Barrett, J.D., Vessey, W.B. and Mumford, M.D., 2011. Getting leaders to think:
Eects of training, threat, and pressure on performance. The Leadership
Quarterly, 224, pp.729750.
Baker, S.D., 2007. Followership: The theoretical foundation of a contemporary
construct. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 141, pp.5060.
Balkundi, P. and Kildu, M., 2006. The ties that lead: A social network approach
to leadership. The leadership quarterly, 174, pp.419439.
Barton, M.A. and Sutclie, K.M., 2009. Overcoming dysfunctional
momentum: Organizational safety as a social achievement. Human
Relations, 629, pp.13271356.
Bechky, B.A. and Okhuysen, G.A., 2011. Expecting the unexpected? How SWAT
ocers and film crews handle surprises. Academy of Management Journal, 542,
pp.2 3 9 26 1 .
Bennis, W.G. and Nanus, B., 2007. Leaders: Strategies for taking charge. New York:
Harper Business.).
Benski, T., Langman, L., Perugorría, I. and Tejerina, B., 2013. From the streets
and squares to social movement studies: What have we learned?. Current
sociology, 614, pp.541561.
26Centre for Applied Human Rights
Boin, A. and Van Eeten, M.J., 2013. The resilient organization. Public Management
Review, 153, pp.429445.
Bolden, R. 2020. Leadership, Complexity and Change: Learning from the Covid-19
pandemic. [Online]. Available at:
leadership-complexity-and-change-learning-from-the-covid-19-pandemic/ [Accessed
24 April 2020]
Brown, E., Ekoue, E. and Goodban, V., 2019. Transformative leadership for women’s
rights in Africa: Learning from Oxfam’s work. Agenda, 331, pp.2137.
Brown, M.E., Treviño, L.K. and Harrison, D.A., 2005. Ethical leadership: A social
learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational behavior
and human decision processes, 972, pp.117134.
Bundy, J., Pfarrer, M.D., Short, C.E. and Coombs, W.T., 2017. Crises and crisis
management: Integration, interpretation, and research development. Journal of
Management, 436, pp.16611692.
Burke, C.S., Stagl, K.C., Klein, C., Goodwin, G.F., Salas, E. and Halpin, S.M., 2006. What
type of leadership behaviors are functional in teams? A meta-analysis. The leadership
quarterly, 173, pp.288307.
Carter, D.R., DeChurch, L.A., Braun, M.T. and Contractor, N.S., 2015. Social network
approaches to leadership: An integrative conceptual review. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 1003, p.597622
Chalcraft, J., 2012. Horizontalism in the Egyptian revolutionary process. Middle East
Report, 26242, pp.611.
Chemers, M., 2014. An integrative theory of leadership. Psychology Press.
Chen, X., 2012. Social protest and contentious authoritarianism in China. Cambridge
University Press.
Chen, J. and Xu, Y., 2017. Why do authoritarian regimes allow citizens to voice
opinions publicly?. The Journal of Politics, 793, pp.792803.
Cheng, E.W. and Chan, W.Y., 2017. Explaining spontaneous occupation: Antecedents,
contingencies and spaces in the Umbrella Movement. Social Movement Studies, 162,
Chin, J.L. 2007. ‘Overview: women and leadership: transforming visions and diverse
voices. In J.L. Chin, B. Lott, J.K. Rice and J. Sanchez-Hucles (eds). Women and
Leadership: transforming visions and diverse voices. Oxford, Blackwell, pp.118.
Comfort, L.K., Boin, A. and Demchak, C.C. (eds.), 2010. Designing resilience: Preparing
for extreme events. University of Pittsburgh Press.
Copeland, M.K., 2016. The impact of authentic, ethical, transformational leadership
on leader eectiveness. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 133, p.7997.
Cosenza, M.N., 2015. Defining Teacher Leadership: Arming the Teacher Leader
Model Standards. Issues in teacher education, 242, pp.7999.
Crossman, B. and Crossman, J., 2011. Conceptualising followership–a review of the
literature. Leadership, 74, pp.481497.
27Centre for Applied Human Rights
Cullen-Lester, K.L. and Yammarino, F.J., 2016. Collective and network approaches to
leadership: Special issue introduction. The Leadership Quarterly, 272, pp.173180.
Dartey-Baah, K., 2015. Resilient leadership: A transformational-transactional
leadership mix. Journal of Global Responsibility, 61, pp.99112.
Day, D.V., Gronn, P. and Salas, E., 2004. Leadership capacity in teams. The Leadership
Quarterly, 156, pp.857880.
Desai, V.M., 2011. Mass media and massive failures: Determining organizational
eorts to defend field legitimacy following crises. Academy of Management Journal,
542, pp.263278.
Dietz, J.M., Aviram, R., Bickford, S., Douthwaite, K., Goodstine, A., Izursa, J.L.,
Kavanaugh, S., MacCARTHY, K.A.T.I.E., O’Herron, M. and Parker, K., 2004.
Defining leadership in conservation: a view from the top. Conservation Biology,
181, pp.274278.
Dinh, J.E., Lord, R.G., Gardner, W.L., Meuser, J.D., Liden, R.C. and Hu, J., 2014.
Leadership theory and research in the new millennium: Current theoretical trends
and changing perspectives. The Leadership Quarterly, 251, pp.3662.
Dirks, K.T. and Ferrin, D.L., 2002. Trust in leadership: Meta-analytic findings and
implications for research and practice. Journal of applied psychology, 874, p.611.
Dixon, D.P., Weeks, M., Boland Jr, R. and Perelli, S., 2017. Making sense when it
matters most: An exploratory study of leadership in extremis. Journal of Leadership &
Organizational Studies, 243, pp.294317.
Dunne, M. and Hamzawy, A. 2019. Egypt’s Political Exiles: Going Anywhere but
Home. Available at:
Eagly, 2007. Foreword’. In J.L. Chin, B. Lott, J.K. Rice and J. Sanchez-Hucles (eds).
Women and Leadership: transforming visions and diverse voices. Oxford, Blackwell,
Eslen-Ziya, H. and Erhart, I., 2015. Toward postheroic leadership: A case study of
Gezi’s collaborating multiple leaders. Leadership, 114, pp.471488.
Fine, M.G., 2009. Women leaders’ discursive constructions of leadership. Women’s
studies in communication, 322, pp.180202.
Friedrich, T.L., Vessey, W.B., Schuelke, M.J., Ruark, G.A. and Mumford, M.D., 2009. A
framework for understanding collective leadership: The selective utilization of leader
and team expertise within networks. The Leadership Quarterly, 206, pp.933958.
Ganz, M. and McKenna, E., 2018. Bringing leadership back in. The Wiley Blackwell
Companion to Social Movements, pp.185202.
Geier, M.T., 2016. Leadership in extreme contexts: Transformational leadership,
performance beyond expectations?. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies,
233, pp.234247.
Ghere, R.K., 2013. NGO leadership and human rights. Kumarian Press.
28Centre for Applied Human Rights
Gilstrap, C.A., Gilstrap, C.M., Holderby, K.N. and Valera, K.M., 2016. Sensegiving,
leadership, and nonprofit crises: how nonprofit leaders make and give sense to
organizational crisis. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit
Organizations, 276, pp.27872806.
Goldstone, J.A. and Tilly, C., 2001. Threat (and opportunity): Popular action and
state response in the dynamics of contentious action. Silence and voice in the study of
contentious politics, pp.17994.
Greenleaf, R.K., 2002. Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power
and greatness. Paulist Press.
Grey, J., 2013. Executive advantage: resilient leadership for 21st-century organizations.
Kogan Page Publishers.
Hällgren, M., Rouleau, L. and De Rond, M., 2018. A matter of life or death: How
extreme context research matters for management and organization studies.
Academy of Management Annals, 121, pp.111153.
Hale, A., and Heijer, T., 2006. Defining Resilience. In, Hollnagel, E., Woods, D.D.
and Leveson, N. eds., 2006. Resilience engineering: Concepts and precepts. Ashgate
Publishing, Ltd.
Ho, P.S.Y., Jackson, S. & Kong, S.T. 2018. Speaking against Silence: Finding a Voice
in Hong Kong Chinese Families through the Umbrella Movement. Sociology 525:
Hoddy, E.T. and Ensor, J.E., 2018. Brazil’s landless movement and rights’ from below’.
Journal of rural studies, 63, pp.7482.
Holenweger, M., Jager, M.K. and Kernic, F. eds., 2017. Leadership in Extreme Situations.
Cham: Springer.
Hollnagel, E., Woods, D.D. and Leveson, N. eds., 2006. Resilience engineering:
Concepts and precepts. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
House, R., Javidan, M., Hanges, P. and Dorfman, P., 2002. Understanding cultures
and implicit leadership theories across the globe: an introduction to project GLOBE.
Journal of world business, 371, pp.310.
HRW. 2020a. Human Rights Dimensions of COVID19 Response [Online]. Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2020.
HRW. 2020b. China: Fighting COVID19 With Automated Tyranny. [Online]. Available
tyranny [Accessed 24 April 2020.
Ilies, R., Morgeson, F.P. and Nahrgang, J.D., 2005. Authentic leadership and
eudaemonic well-being: Understanding leader–follower outcomes. The leadership
quarterly, 163, pp.373394.
Johannessen, S., 2017. Strategies, leadership and complexity in crisis and emergency
operations. Routledge.
Johns, G., 2006. The essential impact of context on organizational behavior.
Academy of management review, 312, pp.386408.
29Centre for Applied Human Rights
Johnson, B.B. and Covello, V.T. eds., 2012. The social and cultural construction
of risk: Essays on risk selection and perception (Vol. 3. Springer Science &
Business Media.
Johnston, H. and Klandermans, B., 1995. The cultural analysis of social movements.
Social movements and culture, 4, pp.324.
Kapronczay, S. and Kertesz, A. 2018. The crackdown on NGOs as an opportunity
to reinforce human rights values: a Hungarian case study. In C. Rodriguez-Garavito
and K. Gomez (Eds). Rising to the Populist Challenge: a New Playbook for Human Rights
Actors. Dejustica: Bogota, Colombia..
Kelley, R.E., 1988. In praise of followers Harvard Business Review, pp.142148.
Kerkvliet, B.J.T., 2014. Protests over land in Vietnam: Rightful resistance and more.
Journal of Vietnamese Studies, 93, pp.1954.
Kong, S. T., Ho, P. S.Y, Jackson, S. (Durham University). The Emerging Relationship-
Based Political Identity in Hong Kong: Addressing Gender Division or Repeating the
Same Old Story? British Sociological Association Annual Conference 2018, 1012 April
2018, Northumbria University, UK.
Lane, K.E., McCormack, T.J. and Richardson, M.D., 2013. Resilient leaders: Essential
for organizational innovation. International Journal of Organizational Innovation
(Online), 62, p.7.
Lee, T., 2014. Defect or defend: Military responses to popular protests in authoritarian
Asia. JHU Press.
Li, L. and O’brien, K.J., 2008. Protest leadership in rural China. The China Quarterly,
193, pp.123.
Li, L. and O’Brien, K.J., 2006. Rightful resistance in rural China. Cambridge
University Press.
Mansour, K., 2018. How to survive between a rock and a hard place: the experience
of a human rights organization in Egypt. In C. Rodriguez-Garavito and K. Gomez
(Eds). Rising to the Populist Challenge: a New Playbook for Human Rights Actors.
Dejustica: Bogota, Colombia..
Mayer, N.Z. and John, D.M., 2017. Religious groups as crucibles of social movements.
Social movements in an organizational society (pp. 6796. Routledge.
Malseed, K., 2009. Networks of noncompliance: grassroots resistance and
sovereignty in militarised Burma. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 362, pp.365391.
Marcus, D., 2012. The horizontalists. Dissent, 594, pp.5459.
Martin, G.S., Keating, M.A., Resick, C.J., Szabo, E., Kwan, H.K. and Peng, C., 2013. The
meaning of leader integrity: A comparative study across Anglo, Asian, and Germanic
cultures. The Leadership Quarterly, 243, pp.445461.
May, D.R., Chan, A.Y., Hodges, T.D. and Avolio, B.J., 2003. Developing the moral
component of authentic leadership. Organizational dynamics, 323, pp.247260.
McAdam, D., McCarthy, J.D., Zald, M.N. and Mayer, N.Z. eds., 1996. Comparative
perspectives on social movements: Political opportunities, mobilizing structures, and
cultural framings. Cambridge University Press.
30Centre for Applied Human Rights
Michaelsen, M., 2018. Exit and voice in a digital age: Iran’s exiled activists and the
authoritarian state. Globalizations, 152, pp.248264.
Milkman, R., 2014. Millennial movements: Occupy wall street and the dreamers.
Dissent, 613, pp.5559.
Navarro, Z., 2006. Mobilization without emancipation”: The Social Struggles of the
Landless in Brazil. Another production is possible: Beyond the capitalist canon, pp.146178.
Navarro, Z., 2005. Transforming rights into social practices? The landless movement
and land reform in Brazil. In B.S Santos (ed.), Another Production is Possible: Beyond
the Capitalist Cannon. Verso.
Nepstad, S. and Bob, C., 2006. When do leaders matter? Hypotheses on leadership
dynamics in social movements. Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 111, pp.122.
Northouse, P.G., 2016. Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice. Sage
O’Brien, K.J., 2013. Rightful resistance revisited. Journal of Peasant Studies, 406,
Oc, B., 2018. Contextual leadership: A systematic review of how contextual factors
shape leadership and its outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly.
O’Malley, P., 2010. Resilient subjects: Uncertainty, warfare and liberalism. Economy
and Society, 394, pp.488509.
OpenGlobalRights 2018. Resist or flee: NGOs respond to Egypt’s crackdown.
Available at:
Osborn, R.N., Hunt, J.G. and Jauch, L.R., 2002. Toward a contextual theory of
leadership. The leadership quarterly, 136, pp.797837.
Ospina, S. and Foldy, E., 2010. Building bridges from the margins: The work of
leadership in social change organizations. The Leadership Quarterly, 212, pp.292307.
Ospina, S. and Hittleman, M., 2011. Thinking sociologically about leadership.
Leadership studies: The dialogue of disciplines, pp.89100.
Ospina, S. and Su, C., 2009. Weaving color lines: Race, ethnicity, and the work of
leadership in social change organizations. Leadership, 52, pp.131170.
Parés, M., Ospina, S.M. and Subirats, J. eds., 2017. Social innovation and
democratic leadership: communities and social change from below. Edward Elgar
Pettersen, K.A. and Schulman, P.R., 2016. Drift, adaptation, resilience and reliability:
toward an empirical clarification. Safety science.
Pirotti, G.B. and Venzin, M., 2016. Resilient Organizations: Responsible Leadership in
Times of Uncertainty. Cambridge University Press.
Poltera, J. and Schreiner, J., 2019. Problematising women’s leadership in the African
context. Agenda, pp.112.
Porter, L.W. and McLaughlin, G.B., 2006. Leadership and the organizational context:
like the weather?. The Leadership Quarterly, 176, pp.559576.
31Centre for Applied Human Rights
Raelin, J.A., 2016. Imagine there are no leaders: Reframing leadership as
collaborative agency. Leadership, 122, pp.131158.
Reynolds, S. 2020. Covid-19 means systems thinking is no longer optional. [Online].
Available at:
longer-optional/ [Accessed 24 April 2020.
Ramthun, A.J. and Matkin, G.S., 2014. Leading dangerously: A case study of military
teams and shared leadership in dangerous environments. Journal of Leadership &
Organizational Studies, 213, pp.244256.
Rodriguez-Garavito, C. and Gomez, K. (Eds). Rising to the Populist Challenge: a New
Playbook for Human Rights Actors. Dejustica: Bogota, Colombia.
Rowe, J., 2006. Non-defining leadership. Kybernetes, 3510, pp.15281537.
Rost, J.C., 1993. Leadership for the twenty-first century. Greenwood
Publishing Group.
Rucht, D., 2012. Leadership in social and political movements: a comparative
exploration. In Comparative political leadership (pp. 99118. Palgrave Macmillan,
Ruiz-Martin, C., López-Paredes, A. and Wainer, G., 2018. What we know and do not
know about organizational resilience. International Journal of Production Management
and Engineering, 61, pp.1128.
Satterthwaite, M.L., Knuckey, S., Singh Sawhney, R., Wightman, K., Bagrodia, R.
and Brown, A., 2019. From a ‘Culture of Unwellness’ to Sustainable Advocacy:
Organizational Responses to Mental Health Risks in the Human Rights Field. Review
of Law and Social Justice, 28, pp.443554.
Stern, E.K., 2017. Crisis, Leadership, and Extreme Contexts. In Leadership in Extreme
Situations (pp. 4159. Springer, Cham.
Strycharczyk, D. and Elvin, C., 2014. Developing resilient organizations: How to create
an adaptive, high-performance and engaged organization. Kogan Page Publishers.
Sitrin, M., 2012. Horizontalism and the Occupy movements. Dissent, 592, pp.7475.
Sitrin, M. ed., 2006. Horizontalism: Voices of popular power in Argentina. AK press.
Smyth, I. 2015. Transformative leadership for women’s rights TLWR: Lessons and
recommendations from Oxfam’s experiences. Oxfam.
Sundkvist, E., 2018. Feminism During Social and Political Repression in Egypt:
Making or Breaking Resistance Through Legal Activism. In Gender in Human Rights
and Transitional Justice (pp. 1743. Palgrave Macmillan.
Sutclie, K.M. and Vogus, T.J., 2003. Organizing for resilience. In K.S. Cameron, J.E.
Dutton and R.E. Quinn. Eds. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new
discipline. Berrett-Koehler Publishers pp.94110..
Sutherland, N., Land, C. and Böhm, S., 2014. Anti-leaders (hip) in social movement
organizations: The case of autonomous grassroots groups. Organization, 216,
Tarrow, S.G., 2011. Power in movement: Social movements and contentious politics.
Cambridge University Press.
49853 –
32Centre for Applied Human Rights
Van Thielen, T., Decramer, A., Vanderstraeten, A. and Audenaert, M., 2018. When does
performance management foster team eectiveness? A mixedmethod field study
on the influence of environmental extremity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 396,
Wakefield, S., 2017. Transformative and feminist leadership for women’s rights. Oxfam
America Research Backgrounder Series.
Uhl-Bien, M., Riggio, R.E., Lowe, K.B. and Carsten, M.K., 2014. Followership theory: A
review and research agenda. The leadership quarterly, 251, pp.83104.
Uhl-Bien, M. and Ospina, S.M. eds., 2012. Advancing relational leadership research: A
dialogue among perspectives. IA P.
Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R. and McKelvey, B., 2007. Complexity leadership theory: Shifting
leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The leadership quarterly, 184,
UN. 2020. We are all in this Together: Human Rights and COVID19 Response
and Recovery. [Online]. Available at:
[Accessed 24 April 2020.
Uzcategui, R. 2018. Resilience in non-democratic contexts: the challenge of being useful
under the Venezuelan 21st century dictatorship. In C. Rodriguez-Garavito and K. Gomez
(Eds). Rising to the Populist Challenge: a New Playbook for Human Rights Actors. Dejustica:
Bogota, Colombia.
Van Dierendonck, D., 2011. Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of
management, 374, pp.12281261.
Wang, D., Waldman, D.A. and Zhang, Z., 2014. A meta-analysis of shared leadership and
team eectiveness. Journal of applied psychology, 992, p.181.
Welty, E. and Bolton, M., 2017. The Role of Short Term Volunteers in Responding to
Humanitarian Crises: Lessons from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. In Leadership in Extreme
Situations (pp. 115130. Springer, Cham.
White, J.A., 2015. A model of moral courage: A study of leadership for human rights and
democracy in Myanmar. Journal of Civil Society, 111, pp.118.
Williams, T.A., Gruber, D.A., Sutclie, K.M., Shepherd, D.A. and Zhao, E.Y., 2017.
Organizational response to adversity: Fusing crisis management and resilience research
streams. Academy of Management Annals, 112, pp.733769.
Woods, D.D., 2015. Four concepts for resilience and the implications for the future of
resilience engineering. Reliability Engineering & System Safety, 141, pp.59.
Yammarino, F.J., Salas, E., Serban, A., Shirres, K. and Shuer, M.L., 2012. Collectivistic
leadership approaches: Putting the “we” in leadership science and practice. Industrial
and Organizational Psychology, 54, pp.382402.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Authentic, ethical and transformational leadership in 21st century business leaders is needed. This research posits that ethical, authentic and transformational leaders are more effective, that there are incremental improvements in a leader’s effectiveness for each of these leadership qualities, and that transformational leadership moderates the impact of the leader’s authentic and ethical leadership on the leader’s outcomes. Analysis shows that authentic, ethical and transformational leadership behaviors make incremental independent contributions to explain leader effectiveness. The study did not find support for transformational leadership as a moderator of the relationships between authentic and ethical leadership behaviors and a leader’s effectiveness.
Full-text available
Human rights advocates are exposed to significant stressors and harms of myriad forms, and suffer elevated levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and burnout. Yet research into mental health and human rights is nascent. This global study, the first of its kind, and based on interviews with advocates at 70 organizations from 35 countries and dozens of experts, mapped how human rights organizations are responding to the mental health and well-being needs of advocates. The study found that, generally, organizations have responded poorly and much more needs to be done at all levels—individual, organizational, and field-wide. The study addressed: (1) sources of stress and the harms advocates see as resulting from poor mental health and stress exposure; (2) the challenges to improving well-being; and (3) positive organizational practices for supporting well-being and building more resilient advocates and organizations. The study concludes with recommended next steps, including further research, knowledge-sharing, and tailored education and trainings. Final version forthcoming in the Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice.
At Oxfam, we have spent much of the last two years talking about feminist principles. In the context of the #Metoo and #Aidtoo movements, the presence (or absence) of these feminist values and principles is increasingly – and rightly – under the spotlight. In this article, we reflect on what it takes to embed these values in our research practice within the monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) function of an international non-government organisation such as Oxfam. These values shape our understanding of the purpose of carrying out MEL activities as a tool for bringing about social justice, through examining gender and power relations, why they exist and how they change. We reflect on the successes and challenges we have faced while utilising evaluation for greater gender equality. By doing so, we aim to start shedding light on the structural changes needed to bring about social changes through MEL, and research more broadly.
This article is a response to a longstanding debate about what feminist theorists and leadership scholars mean when they refer to “women’s leadership in the African context”. (The debate was sparked again as a response to the initial call for papers for this topic.) We argue that there is ultimately a need for more caution and conceptual clarity in employing terms such as “women’s leadership” and “in the African context” since they are contested and ambiguous. In so doing we situate both terms within broader interdisciplinary debates about feminist leadership theory, mainstream leadership theory, and discussions of African values as they pertain to leadership. We argue that there is a need to avoid essentialist, reductive assumptions about gender and leadership that can, among other things, place undue pressure on women in leadership positions. In so doing we distinguish leadership from ethical, effective leadership and offer an exploratory discussion of how some of the challenges we raise here might be addressed.
This article charts the journey of over fifteen years of Oxfam’s programming in support of more transformative leadership for African women’s rights. We reflect on lessons learnt from this collective experience and examine the principles, characteristics and strategies emerging from our programming that demonstrate the greatest transformative potential for overcoming women’s exclusion from systems and structures of power and leadership on the African continent. We reflect on some of the tensions in the international development sector between support for individual women’s leadership and feminist movement building and on how these tensions have contributed to narrow definitions of - and funding for - leadership and empowerment programmes. We draw deeply on the critical thinking of transformative feminist leadership activists such as Srilatha Batliwala to help redefine what is meant by – and needed from – leadership in our changing world. We share concrete examples of Oxfam’s experience of partnerships with African women’s rights organisations, networks and movements – often in mainstream development sectors – to trial and mature more transformative leadership in practice. Finally, we use emerging evidence from this work to make arguments for the support and investments required for more feminist – more effective – approaches and strategies for promoting African women’s leadership and power - in Oxfam and elsewhere.
Social movements drive economic, social, political, and cultural change. But who – or what – makes movements? This chapter argues that leadership plays a critical but poorly understood role in social movements. It argues that a failure to distinguish among discrete qualities of leaders, authority structures through which leadership is often exercised, and what leaders actually do inhibits understanding social movements. A failure to focus on leadership practice has limited understanding of the internal dynamics of social movement organizations (SMOs), differences between social movement and SMO leadership, and processes by means of which moments of enthusiasm and indignation – often reactive – may or may not be turned into effectively strategic movements. The literature is reviewed, lacunas are identifies, and an alternative theoretical framework for the study of social movement leadership is proposed.
Recent literature has recognised the value of food sovereignty and human rights frameworks in agrarian struggles. Relatively little attention has gone toward how agrarian movements develop and apply their own rights discourses to further demands for social justice. This study considers Brazil's landless movement (MST) between 1984 and 1995, revealing three distinct rights discourses that recruited and mobilised protest by linking local issues to the movement's broader political project. The findings illustrate the value of rights, frames and ideology as analytical tools, shedding light on how movement-generated rights emerge through processes of reflexivity and in response to dynamic social-political contexts.