The institutionalization of genocidal leadership: pol pot and a Cambodian dystopia

Miguel Pina e Cunha, Arménio Rego, Stewart Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Misleadership is defined as leadership process involving a complex interplay of leader, follower, and situational elements, inscribing a vicious circle of intensifying dysfunctional action. It is tempting to see misleadership as the result of the madness of one leader. It is also misleading. Leadership research has been insufficiently attentive to misleadership and, in particular, to the misleadership factors intervening in genocidal processes. Discussed in the current article are the antecedents and the rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s as an extreme case of misleadership. Lessons from the Polpotist dystopia are derived and reflections on possible contra-strategies are presented. In particular, it is suggested that it is necessary to distinguish measures for social change that are admissible and positive, from negative utopian visions that are negative, inadmissible, and facilitative of evil leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-18
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Leadership Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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