Human rights leadership in challenging times: an agenda for research and practice

Eric Hoddy, John Gray

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Leadership is as an integral part of organisational practice that relates to individual or collectivistic forms of decision-making and action. In human rights work, this can include strategic decision-making, such as how issues are communicated or ‘framed’; how organisations, networks and communities are mobilised;, and how risk is managed and minimised.. This article applies a systematic scoping review approach to understand the scope of scholarly literature on human rights leadership and assess its volume and focus. We find that there is little work in the human rights practice literature that deals directly and explicitly with leadership. Human rights leadership is undefined and there have been no attempts to develop and apply the notion as analytical frame for examining or explaining organisational problems, practices, processes or outcomes. Further, the human rights practice literature gives little insight into how leadership can be supported and strengthened. In light of these gaps, we set out some research and practice directions that can inform a new agenda on human rights leadership. We draw on theories, concepts, frameworks and approaches from leadership work outside of human rights practice that might give shape to a new leadership agenda. In doing so, we propose several clusters of questions that might guide research on leadership as a crosscutting theme in human rights practice. We suggest the urgency for a new agenda on leadership is reflected in recent high-profile cases of leadership failures in rights-based organisations and the need for human rights leadership in the face of mounting global challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalThe International Journal of Human Rights
Early online date8 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Nov 2022

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