In the following dialogue, historian J. Thomas Wren and anthropologist Elizabeth Faier, both original members of the General Theory of Leadership group convened in 2001, embark on a journey to 'contemplate context' within a general theory of leadership. As discussed in Chapter 1 of this volume, initial discussions within the general theory group exposed rather deep rifts concerning the importance and role of context in the leadership relation. These early debates inspired Wren and Faier to sit down and reflect more thoroughly on the troubling issues of the role of context. As the ensuing exchange makes clear, the two have some basic disagreements. It is evident that the more traditionalist Wren and the move constructivist Faier diverge in their approaches with regard to the role of context. Wren perceives context as an environment in which leadership takes place while Faier considers context more abstractly, as a space constructed by participants through performance. Despite the disparate starting points, Wren and Faier approach some middle ground through the creative exploration of metaphors and applications. The ensuing dialogue is a conceptual piece, designed not to establish authoritative answers but to lay bare essential questions regarding the ways in which context might inform theoretical thinking about leadership.

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Copyright © 2006 Edward Elgar Publishing. This chapter first appeared in A Quest for a General Theory of Leadership.

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