HKS Authors

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Rita E. Hauser Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Organizing, and Civil Society


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.


Ganz, Marshall, and Elizabeth McKenna. "Bringing Leadership Back In." The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social Movements. Ed. David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi, and Holly J. McCammon. Wiley-Blackwell, 2018, 185-202.