From ‘clientilism’ to transformational leadership? An autoethnographic journey from Soviet Georgia to the UK. Journal of Organizational Ethnography.

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Purpose –The paper aims to contribute to the ethnographic tradition in the educational leadership literature through providing an autoethnographic critical analysis of the idiosyncrasies of leadership across two different socio-political environments: a Soviet educational establishment and a contemporary UK higher education institution. Design/methodology/approach – In a previous issue, Doloriert and Sambrook (2012) argued that autoethnographic approach could help to uncover some experiences and voices that previously were silenced due to the discomfort they caused. In response to this claim and with consideration of three epistemological possibilities of autoethnography as suggested by Doloriert and Sambrook (2012), the author uses narrative accounts of personal experiences of leadership in Soviet Georgia and in the UK as the main source of data in the attempt to demonstrate how the three epistemological positions overlap and complement each other in the context of a critical autoethnography. Findings – The paper argues that autoethnographic approach can provide a unique opportunity for a simultaneous analysis of the particularities of leadership practice across different socio-political environments, whereas the ‘three positions’ approach could be used as an expedient template for further exploration of educational leadership. The paper also suggests there are some parallels between current leadership practice in the UK higher education and Soviet system of ‘clientilism’. Originality/value – This paper is one of the first attempts to use autoethnography as an analytical tool for comparing leadership patterns in two contrasting socio-political structures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Early online date24 Jun 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jun 2018


  • Autoethnography
  • Soviet
  • leadership
  • higher education
  • clientilism

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