Making sense of leaders making sense

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This chapter critically analyzes sensemaking, a cognitive leadership skill. The discussion traces the origins of sensemaking in the work of its most prominent advocate, Karl Weick. It documents some of the problems and possibilities inherent in Weick’s exposition, and reviews a range of recent extensions of his idea. In the absence of a framework for understanding leader cognition, a key shortcoming of sensemaking is shown to be a lack of validated empirical claims regarding its contribution to leader problem solving, an omission since rectified by the work of Mumford and colleagues. Not only do these authors’ experimental studies identify a range of sensemaking skills, but they also indicate how these are attainable as part of leader development. In arguing that sensemaking is important for leaders, the chapter cautions against the substitution of some revised sensemaking terminology for more conventional understandings of leaders’ conduct (e.g., power). Finally, with regard to future research, the discussion concludes by highlighting potentially productive alternative approaches to cognition in the neighboring knowledge domains of cognitive and neuro science, that might further enhance understanding of sensemaking.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLeader Thinking Skills
Subtitle of host publicationCapacities for Contemporary Leadership
EditorsMichael D. Mumford, Cory A. Higgs
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315269573
ISBN (Print)9781138284319, 9781138284333
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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