AMLE Call for Special Issue Papers: Building Theory on Leadership Development

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Building Theory on Leadership Development. Submission deadline: 15 December 2024. Scheduled for publication September 2026.

Academy of Management Learning & Education Special Issue:
Building Theory on Leadership Development

For this special issue, we invite submissions to all of AMLE’s peer-reviewed sections, including Research and Reviews, Essays, and Book and Resource Reviews. We particularly welcome research studies based on extensive data—qualitative or quantitative—using any well-executed and rigorous methodology.

Guest Editors:

  • Hannes Leroy, Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands)
  • Moran Anisman-Razin, University of Limerick (Ireland)
  • Bruce Avolio, University of Washington (USA)
  • Lisa Dragoni, Wake Forest University (USA)
  • Steffen Giessner, Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands)
  • Niels Van Quaquebeke, Kühne Logistics University (Germany)
  • Todd Bridgman, Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand)
  • Arran Caza, University of North Carolina at Greensboro (USA)

Deadline for Submissions: 15 December 2024

Scheduled for Publication: September 2026

Call for Papers

Leadership development has been described as the smaller brother/sister to the massive field of leadership theory and research (Leroy et al., 2022). Indeed, whereas the focus on leadership itself is a more established field of study, the sub-field of leadership development is more nascent with a smaller but growing community of scholars and practitioners interested in understanding what constitutes evidence-based development (Day & Dragoni, 2015). In stark contrast to the scant academic attention to leadership development is the fact that many (leadership) scholars find themselves spending a significant portion of their time teaching undergraduate and graduate students, as well as executives about leadership, with very little evidence of the effectiveness of their efforts (Leroy et al., 2022). And more broadly, the leadership development field has become a multi-billion-dollar industry (CCL, 2019; Narayandas & Moldoveanu, 2019), with few established guidelines set by academics for efficient and effective leadership development (Vongswasdi et al., 2023).

As a less-established field of interest, leadership development suffers from two interconnected issues (Klimoski & Amos, 2012). On the one hand, many leadership development efforts lack a scientific base and seem, therefore, rather disconnected from the theoretical and empirical knowledge we have accumulated over the last 100 years about what constitutes effective leadership. On the other hand, it is not clear how useful existing theory on leadership is for developmental efforts; simply understanding what constitutes effective leadership is not the same thing as actually intervening to change and develop leadership.
Thus, the field of leadership development can benefit from greater attention and creation of theories about developing effective leaders. Specifically, we invite submissions that will outline theory on how we “learn” leadership (i.e., management learning perspective), as well as theory on how to develop leaders effectively (i.e., the pedagogy of leadership development, which speaks to management education debates) (Lindebaum, 2023). Such contributions will not only benefit leadership development, but also advance the understanding of leadership effectiveness and management learning more generally.

With this call for papers, we invite scholars to help build more comprehensive theories on leadership development. While we have established theories of leaders(hip) and we have clear theories of (adult) development, there is an important gap in the literature when it comes to addressing leadership development in particular. We aim to set a new agenda for future work on leadership development, which will be instrumental in significantly advancing theory, research and curricula in business schools and organizations alike for the coming decades. More specifically, we extend our invitation to submit for the following audiences:

First, we invite leadership scholars to contribute, particularly with developmental theories on approaches to leadership. We propose that leadership scholars pivot to consider the developmental implications of their work on different theoretical models of leadership, thus contributing to a growing body of work on management learning focusing on leadership development. Doing so is valuable because leadership development is too frequently examined in a generic way that is atheoretical, where authors have suggested the effects of development are somewhat agnostic to the types of leadership being developed, usually recommending very generic conditions to promote positive effects from interventions (e.g., Lacerenza, Reyes, Marlow, Joseph, & Salas, 2017; Wallace, Torres, & Zaccaro, 2021). Though we have accumulated ample evidence that an individual’s leadership capabilities can be developed (e.g., Arvey, Zhang, Avolio & Krueger, 2007; Zhang, Illies, & Arvey, 2009), even through relatively short leadership development programs (Reyes, Dinh, Lacerenza, Marlow, Joseph, & Salas, 2019), it does not shed sufficient light on what specific motivations, capabilities, identities, values, or attitudes are being developed by programs focused on different types of leadership (Day & Liu, 2018; DeRue & Myers, 2014; Vogel, Reichard, Batistič, & Černe, 2021). The proximal and distal outcomes that are typically assessed, along with the conditions for successful development interventions, will depend on the specific type of leadership under investigation (e.g., Avolio, 2007). For example, we would expect that different methods will be more (less) effective when developing authentic leadership versus empowering, paradoxical, visionary, and/or strategic leadership. While some examples of testable theories of leadership development exist, such theories are still scarce. Existing examples explored leadership development as involving social identities (Haslam, Steffens, Peters, Boyce, Mallett, & Fransen, 2017) or public narratives (Ganz, Lee Cunningham, Ben Ezer, & Segura, 203); character development in leadership development (Crossan, Mazutis, Seijts, & Gand, 2013); the development of reflective ability in leadership (Ashford & DeRue, 2012; Petriglieri, Wood, & Petriglieri, 2011); and the sensemaking process in leadership development (Hammond, Clapp-Smith, & Palanski, 2017).

More broadly, we encourage researchers to consider and be explicit about the underlying values and assumption of their chosen approach - realizing that leadership development is often a value-laden and normative enterprise (Alvesson & Einola, 2021; Fisher & Sitkin, 2023; Mumford & Fried, 2014). The effectiveness of a program will depend on the readiness of the target leader and the context for change (Avolio, 2007). For instance, scholars can connect the cultural or socio-economic context within which a program exists (Lindebaum, 2023). The GLOBE research showed that what consists of effective leadership varies across cultures (Dorfman, Javidan, Hanges, Dastmalchian, & house, 2012), thus it is likely that other societal characteristics would affect effective leadership development. We welcome and encourage work that theorizes on these macro factors as anchored in the broader context. We believe this takes the research beyond the more niche field of leadership development to the broader field of management learning and education more generally.

Second, we invite scholars from cognate disciplines like education, motivation, or social psychology. We ask these scholars to translate or extend existing theories and apply them to the context of leadership in management learning and education. Often leadership development papers draw on outside theoretical perspectives like adult life-span development (e.g., Day, Harrison, & Halpin, 2009), self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), and role theory (Biddle, 1986). While foundational, and clearly relevant, these perspectives are often not specific to the unique context of developing leaders in an organizational context. For example, there are numerous programs that include specific elements of on-the-job learning that bring together the training and work sphere, thus creating conditions different from development in other contexts (Ashford & DeRue, 2012; Day, 2000; DeRue & Wellman, 2009). Yet, we currently do not have a sufficient number of theories that would explain leadership development as they occur in an organizational context (Day, Riggio, Tan, & Conger, 2021).

Third, we invite scholars in related management fields. We ask these scholars to translate or extend existing theories of management and apply them to the context of leadership in management learning and education. We see both traditional OB and HR scholars translating insights from their field of inquiry to leadership development. These OB/HR scholars often teach existing or future leaders their theories of work-related phenomena in an attempt to improve their leadership capacity. For instance, consider an HR-topic like job design (Parker et al., 2017a; 2017b): leaders play an important role in designing effective jobs for followers, and thus we might reconsider leadership development from that perspective. Similarly, we consider the literature on performance management, talent management, and career development – all are becoming key elements of leaders’ jobs and require not only specific knowledge, but also mindsets and skills (e.g., Crawshaw & Game, 2015). Similarly, we believe that various traditional OB topics lend themselves well to leadership development. For instance, topics like voice or feedback-seeking (Morrison, 2023; Sherf & Morrison, 2020) might shed light on the natural trajectory of leadership development in organizations. Similarly, topics like how people experience epiphanies in development (Dane, 2020), or the identity work that people go through in development (Caza, Vough, & Puranik, 2018; Zheng, Meister, & Caza, 2021) could be applied to the context of leadership development. Many OB/HR colleagues may not call themselves leadership development scholars, but their areas of expertise could be of significant value. We hope to create links across fields and invite scholars in adjacent fields to theorize on the developmental implications of theories in their field for leadership development in management.

Fourth and finally, we invite strategy and OT scholars to contribute to understanding the leadership development industry as a whole. As noted earlier, the leadership development industry has formed and thrived with comparatively little academic grounding (Klimoski & Amos, 2012; Vongswasdi et al., 2023). This fact begs the question of how we can best understand the inner workings of the leadership development industry – in business schools and outside them (e.g., Carroll & Nicholson, 2014). It raises issues like how leadership development is viewed and shaped in organizations, how leadership development programs are selected, how leadership development fits with the broader strategic intent of organizations, and the role of consultants and academic institutions in the industry (Guthey et al., 2023). This view would go beyond leadership development as it happens in one organization to consider the industry as a whole, looking into issues of professionalization, accreditation, and certification. Such questions do not only pertain to understanding leadership development in an organizational context, but also to leadership development as it occurs in academic institutes (Leroy et al., 2022).

In sum, we aim to attract new scholars from different areas to become part of the growing leadership development global community. We envision this special issue to be quite diverse and eclectic in perspectives and background of scholars contributing to it; the range of leadership aspects being developed; as well as in the contributions themselves – to include both conceptual theories and theories based in research (both qualitative and quantitative). Indeed, we hope to receive submissions from a variety of philosophical, theoretical, and empirical traditions, embodying the spirit of multi- and interdisciplinary research (Ogbonnaya and Brown, 2023).

This also includes critical perspectives that challenge and seek to improve the current status quo of the leadership development industry (Carroll & Nicholson, 2014), cast a different light on the inner workings of the leadership development industry (Leroy et al., 2022; Vongswadi et al., 2023) or seek to deconstruct it altogether (Guthey et al., 2023). We also encourage researchers to consider leadership development as a multi-level phenomenon (Vogel et al., 2021) that can be deeply embedded in certain contexts (e.g., cooperatives, industries, … ). Finally, please note that the emphasis here is foremost on theory development though as with many top outlets we see high-quality empirical confirmation (quantitative and qualitative) as useful in supporting the proposed theoretical contributions.

Illustrative themes / research questions

Submissions for this special issue should specifically focus on theoretical contributions to the leadership development literature. We invite scholars to consider the following questions and offer some examples to illustrate them:

  1. “What are the developmental implications of specific constructs/theories of leadership?”
    1. Constructs: e.g., authentic, shared, paradoxical, instrumental, adaptive, etc. How should leadership development be designed to develop specific facets of leadership within and between different domains/contexts and for different target populations?
    2. Theories: e.g., Social Identity Model of Leadership, Leader Categorization Theory, LMX-theory, Leader emergence via claiming-granting, Leader Identity, Systems Psychodynamic theories of Leadership, etc. How can theories about leadership be translated into a leadership development intervention to foster different leadership orientations and styles?
    3. Mechanisms: e.g., Social learning processes, Self-fulfilling Prophecies, Social Exchanges, etc. How do they drive or contribute to the development of leaders?
  2. “How is development different depending on the context?”
    1. Timeframe: theories on what can realistically be developed in more short-term LDP versus how long-term LDP for more complex leadership theories.
    2. Change: theories that deal with how interventions tackle readiness vs. resistance to change, overcoming potential unreadiness to develop leadership both in terms of the individual and the context in which they are embedded over time.
    3. Technology: technology-supported learning, including AI – how can LDPs utilize such technologies to enhance development?
  3. “How does leadership development emerge within, and interact with, existing theories of management?”
    1. HR management: e.g., job design, performance management, career development. How can insights from HR research inform both LDPs themselves, and how can we develop leaders to successfully perform these tasks?
    2. Managerial cognition: e.g., epiphanies, mindfulness, identity work, embodiment. How can we utilize what we know about these areas to create programs that will provide personal insight for leaders and support to implement them in their work?
    3. Organizational behavior: e.g., voice, courage, feedback-seeking behavior, listening and question-asking. How do these fields inform the range of skills and competencies that should be addressed in LDPs?
  4. “What theories explain the workings of the leadership development industry?
    1. Within organizations: e.g., selection, retention, evaluation of LDPs. How do we guide organizations in making rigorous decisions in their use of LDPs?
    2. Between organizations: e.g., partnership, trust, and credibility. How do they impact the sustainability of the industry (e.g., academia-consulting partnerships or spin-offs)?
    3. Industry-wide: e.g., legitimacy, accreditation, professionalization. How can we establish and advance leadership development as a field to meet standards common in other professional fields (e.g., medical doctors, or psychologists)?

Submission types

For this special issue, we invite submissions that align with AMLE’s peer-reviewed section of Research and Reviews or essays, as well as relevant book and resource reviews. Submissions will be subject to the normal editorial decision-making and peer-review processes.


If you have any questions or would like to discuss a possible submission, please contact Hannes Leroy or Moran Anisman-Razin. Please note that such consultation is not a precondition, requirement, or guarantee of acceptance for any submission. Authors who have not consulted with the Guest Editor Team are equally welcome to submit.

Submission details

Submit your special issue manuscripts between 1 November 2024 and 15 December 2024 through AMLE’s manuscript central system.

The Guest Editor Team will hold an online workshop on 24 June 2024 and an in-person workshop at the 84th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (AOM 2024, Chicago, USA). We will also offer opportunities at the IPLS conference (Thessaloniki, Greece) and the NDLR conference (Fontainebleau, France).

We encourage prospective authors to participate in these opportunities and receive feedback on their ideas or proposals. Further details will be made available closer to the dates on the AMLE website and will be distributed through prominent social media channels (e.g., Connect@AOM, LinkedIn, X, and others).


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