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CIJP: Vol. 2 No. 1, June 2017

Leadership on Trial: An Existentialist Assessment

  • Godwyns A. Agbude
  • Aize Obayan
  • Ademola, L. Lawal
  • Ugochukwu D. Abasilim
  • Ugochukwu D. Abasilim
August 2, 2017


The importance of leadership in society calls for a continuous attempt to improving on leadership studies so as to build societies (in all its constitutive units) that are humane. This paper, therefore, engages in the perennial dialogues of leadership development vis-à-vis leadership performance from an existentialist paradigm in making a case for a more holistic and viable prescription for effective and functional leadership.



 The existentialists are notorious for their redefinition of Husserlian Phenomenology in which the Transcendental Ego escaped to the world of loneliness where it only serves as an impartial and uninterested observer of human events. From the pedestal of the Transcendental Ego, the Existentialists pulled it down to the world of empirical reality where the Transcendental Ego becomes an interactive, interested and interwoven reality with the other realities of the world.

Putting this in the context of leadership, contemporary leadership performance, both in the political and the corporate (organisational) worlds, reflects a Husserlian disinterested Transcendental Ego in which both public and corporate policies are shaped first and foremost for the interest of the political and the corporate leaders and their compatriots. Public interests thus suffer in the hands of private interests. In politics, for instance, the battle for political power (retaining power at all cost) replaces the quest for effective and efficient service delivery, which should be the hallmark of politics. Looking at the corporate world, corporate executives'/leaders', rewards sometimes overshadow the need to maximise profit for the shareholders while still embracing corporate social responsibility. Several pieces of evidence of corporate frauds explain organisations' fraternisation with window dressing and creative accounting so as to cover up the fraudulent acts of some corporate executives. The fall of Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, HealthSouth, Freddie Mac, American Insurance Group (AIG), Lehman Brothers, Halliburton, Xerox, Tyco International, Rite Aid, Peregrine Systems and etc. are cases in point, therefore providing a good basis for an existentialist intervention in leadership studies.

Thus, this paper engages secondary data with some empirical facts; and also employs some fundamental themes of existentialism in zeroing in leadership in all sectors, specifically, – political leaders, corporate (organisational) leaders, community leaders etc. It concludes that existentialism provides a viable and instructive platform for an ethical, humanistic and pragmatic leadership.