Local government chief executives’ everyday hauntings: towards a theory of organizational ghosts

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    22 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper develops a theory of organizational ghosts, a concept that describes the haunted and burdensome aspects of organizational life and in particular of leadership action. The concept of organizational ghosts is not offered as yet another metaphor, a lens through which to analyse particular organizations. Rather, I offer my discussion of ghosts as a theoretical concept that explains how inheritances of the past haunt the relations and struggles of the present. I tell a ghostly tale of the everyday leadership and learning practices of UK local government chief executives, and provide an exploration of organizational ghosts as a contribution to the growing interest in the action in the shadows, atmospheres, margins and boundaries of organizations. Drawing upon an ethnographic study of UK local councils, and embracing the multiplicity and heterogeneity of organizational ghosts, the paper considers the theoretical, political and ethical stakes involved in taking ghosts seriously. Its contribution is to show how ghosts are insinuated in organizations and to highlight leaders as figures who are both willing agents and uneasy hosts of hauntings, and to point to the mediating role of leaders in handling confrontations between the past, the present and the future.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1041-1061
    Number of pages21
    JournalOrganization Studies
    Issue number7
    Early online date11 Apr 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


    • Leadership studies
    • Philosophical analysis of organizations
    • Public administration and organizations


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