This paper investigates the phenomenon of boredom, and boredom discourse, in relation to leadership. Boredom has been largely omitted from the leadership literature and, where it is discussed, has been readily dismissed as a problem to be solved and incongruent with effective leadership. In asserting an alternative consideration of boredom we draw firstly from the career-related discourse of twenty-six senior managers engaged in a formal leadership development programme, whose boredom talk proved significant in terms of boredom’s juxtaposition to, and contrast with, their construction of challenge in leadership. In a second, more focused study, boredom was considered by executives to be a characteristic of followers rather than leaders, antithetical to leadership, and a problem to be solved through leader-initiated change. In short, both groups of managers showed a disturbing readiness to accept a prevalent negative discourse on boredom and to respond to boredom not by reflecting it but by initiating change. In contrast we propose that the experience, internal conceptualization and consideration of boredom may provide managers with significant impetus for creativity, risk-taking, curiosity and the seeking of challenge in leadership, and may also foster more sustained and embedded individual and organizational change and learning. We argue that attending to a more holistic range of phenomena and living with the discomfort of leadership ‘troughs’ as well as ‘peaks’ may ultimately create a more reflexive, resilient and agile leadership.
© The Author(s) 2010