Antonio Jimenez-Luque - Decolonial Leadership

Global & Culturally Diverse Leadership in the 21st Century
Decolonial Leadership: From a Local and Hegemonic Paradigm Toward a Global and Intercultural Perspective of the Field

By Antonio Jimenez-Luque; Introduction by Jean Lau Chin and Joseph Trimble

Antonio Jimenez-LuqueAntonio Jimenez-Luque, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the University of San Diego. From 2004-2013, Jimenez-Luque was the Coordinator for the International Cooperation for Development at the University of Barcelona Solidarity Foundation working with universities, grassroots organizations, and social movements in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In 2014, he moved to the United States to work at Gonzaga University for the Associate Vice-President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as Intercultural Research Associate, and taught a variety of classes including Leading Across Cultures. Since 2018, he has been teaching at the University of San Diego and developing his research agenda on issues of leadership and social justice from a critical, global, and intercultural perspective.

Joseph E. TrimbleJoseph E. Trimble, PhD, is Distinguished University Professor, Department of Psychology; and Research Associate, Center for Cross-Cultural Research at Western Washington University. His career has focused on promoting psychological and sociocultural research with indigenous populations, especially American Indians and Alaska Natives. A highly decorated teacher, Trimble has held offices in many associations and received the Lifetime Distinguished Career Award from the American Psychological Association's Division 45. Outside the academy, he has served on numerous scientific review committees and research panels for federal agencies such as NIAAA, NIH, and National Academy of Sciences, among others. He has presented over 180 papers and invited addresses and generated over 150 publications, including 22 authored or edited books.

Jean Lau ChinJean Lau Chin, EdD, ABPP is a professor at Adelphi University in New York, and was the 2018 Fulbright Scholar and Distinguished Chair to the University of Sydney, Australia for her research on global and diverse leadership. She has held leadership roles as Dean at Adelphi University, Systemwide Dean at Alliant International University, Executive Director of South Cove Community Health Center and Co-Director of Thom Mental Health Clinic. Her scholarship on diversity leadership, women’s issues, diversity and cultural competence, and psychotherapy includes 18 books and many publications. She is the first Asian American to be licensed as a psychologist in Massachusetts.

Chin and Trimble are co-editors with Joseph Garcia of ILA’s 2017 volume Global and Culturally Diverse Leaders and Leadership: New Dimensions and Challenges for Business, Education, and Society.



Reexamining Our Mindsets: Toward Decolonizing Leadership

By Joseph Trimble and Jean Lau Chin

Usually the oppressive, destructive result of assertive colonization, especially among indigenous ethnocultural populations, was the repression and denial of long-standing traditional lifeways and thoughtways. Traditional language use was suppressed, censored, and prevented from practice in numerous settings. Local attempts to resist the constraints of colonization were met with force — often in very violent ways. The indigenous lost power and control of their worldviews, identity, religious beliefs and practices, and land. They also lost their traditional governance and leadership practices. Eventually resistance to colonial invasiveness led to post-colonial rebellions.

Post-colonial struggles are well documented. Attention often is given to the imperial, aggressive, colonial interloper and its attempts to suppress rebellion. Suppressive attempts to control the indigenous were harmful, destructive, and violent. Yet resistance persisted as indigenous populations worldwide fought to undo the restraints of colonization, gain independence, and restore honor and dignity. To successfully restore traditional lifeways and thoughtways, indigenous and oppressed populations have resorted to the use of cultural leadership styles. For example, the core value for an indigenous leadership style is a strong belief in connectedness; that is, everything is connected to everything else. A firm and unquestioned commitment to spirituality, the sacredness of all life, and respect for all that exists and existed sets in and around the leader. The importance of social identities and lived experiences of leaders in their interaction with their followers influenced sociocultural change. Leaders with social identities reflective of marginalized or minority groups were very likely to face a different experience in their positions than the typical white male leader, suggesting leaders with these challenges must develop self-monitoring skills and use race and other dimensions of diversity, such as sensitivity to exclusion, as a positive resource rather than a deficit or weakness.

Toni Jimenez-Luque asks us to reexamine our mindsets toward decolonizing leadership. This new perspective of leadership goes beyond current paradigms of leadership because it goes beyond U.S. and Western European canons of thought. It values knowledges and epistemologies of critical thinkers from non-Western parts of the world and contributes to broadening the field of leadership toward a global and intercultural perspective.

Toni Jimenez-Luque, referencing Santos (2014), states that concepts resulting from colonialism and imperialism situating Western culture and specific social groups at the top of a social hierarchy are still embedded in our minds, perpetuating asymmetries of power between different cultures and hindering any possibility of equity in relationships and dialogue. Our DLMOX (Diverse Leader-Member Exchange Organizational Paradigm) leadership model of drawing on social identities, lived experiences, and social contexts goes against using the prevailing Western cultural norms to shape the development of culturally specific, non-hegemonic paradigms of leadership. The DLMOX emphasizes “the diverse composition of leaders and members and define the organizational and external environment as both diverse and global (The environment of new era organizations is inclusive of the social identities and lived experiences of diverse leaders and members, the perceptions and social expectations which shape the leader-member exchange, which in turn, influence how an organization implements its mission and adapts it structure to external change” (Chin & Trimble, 2014, p. 44).

Decolonial Leadership: From a Local and Hegemonic Paradigm Toward a Global and Intercultural Perspective of the Field

By Antonio Jimenez-Luque

Current Western imagination is the result of five centuries of “Europe’s hegemonic imperial project and encounters with non-European peoples, cultures, religions, and ways of life” (Gruffydd Jones, 2006, p. 221). Thus, concepts and ideas resulting from colonialism and imperialism that situated Western culture and specific social groups at the top of a social hierarchy are still embedded in our minds reproducing today’s big asymmetries of power between different cultures and epistemologies that hinder any possibility of horizontal relationships and dialogue (Santos, 2014).

As a result of this Western hegemony, leadership models derived from traditional paradigms do not seek inclusiveness or the removal of historical and structural barriers for those precluded from these roles (Eagly & Chin, 2010). Moreover, what today are described as universal and global theories of leadership are quite ethnocentric and local, and “many theories reflect a Eurocentric colonial mentality of dominance and power, which has led to attempts to redefine leadership” (Chin & Trimble, 2015, p. 37). As an example, “trait theories (Bass, 1990; Lord, 1986), contingency theories (Fiedler, 1993), leader-member exchange theories (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995), and leadership styles (Bass & Avolio, 1994; Burns, 1978), have largely sought universal dimensions to characterize leader behaviors and attributes” (Chin & Trimble, 2015, p. 11).

Leadership can be interpreted as transformation (Burns, 1978), mobilization of people (Heifetz & Sinder, 1988), “the process by which ‘social order’ is constructed and changed” (Hosking & Morley, 1988, p. 90), and has the potential to impact positively the work on issues of equity, diversity and social justice across different levels. However, without a revision and a new perspective of thinking about leadership first, it will not be possible to decolonize our minds and to address the asymmetries of power in society derived from a hierarchical classification in terms of class, race, gender and epistemology.

Among the alternatives to the local and hegemonic paradigm of leadership, a process of decolonization of the field is needed that will create the spaces to initiate a true and efficient global and intercultural dialogue aimed at broadening the mainstream field of leadership studies seeking social and cognitive justice in today’s Postcolonial contexts. Otherwise, a local and exclusive US/Western Europe field of leadership studies that does not value non-Western perspectives of leadership and presumes to be considered universal, will keep contributing in a conscious or unconscious way to maintain the structures that reproduce situations of marginalization and inequity in society.

Toward a Global and Intercultural Perspective of the Field

Eurocentrism was imposed as a global hegemon during colonialism and imagined modernity and rationality as exclusively European products and experiences. Moreover, intersubjective and cultural relations between Western Europe and the rest of the world were codified in new categories: East-West, primitive-civilized, magic/mythic-scientific, irrational-rational, traditional-modern, Europe and not Europe (Quijano, 2000). As a result of this dualism that excludes and that does not see difference as complementary, the Western European culture is the only rational one, it is the only one that can contain ‘subjects’ - the rest are not rational, they cannot be or harbor subjects. This false dilemma presents other cultures and social groups as different and unequal, and inferior by nature (Quijano, 2000). There are subjects and objects, there is one model of person (white upper-middle class man, able-bodied, straight, Christian, etc.) and one region (Western world) as the house of enunciation, while the rest are just enunciated and are denied enunciation (Mignolo, 2011).

In terms of leadership studies, Zweigenhaft and Domhoff (2006) demonstrated that, for example in the United States, the power elite still remains quite homogeneous and is conceptualized by a prototypical leader defined by White, social masculine norms. Moreover, “leaders in the United States mirror out dominant population majority of White, heterosexual, Protestant males” (Chin & Trimble, 2015, p. 10). Thus, since the processes of modernity and colonialism started and until the 20th century, “global political leadership was characterized by a conqueror-colonial mentality. Western countries colonized the countries they conquered; members of their group became the country’s new power elite” (p. 14). As a consequence of these colonial relationships, every relation of communication, of interchange of knowledge, and of modes of producing knowledge between cultures are blocked. It is a colonial epistemology, not dialogic, that does not allow any other form of knowledge to enter into dialogue (Mignolo, 2011). Thus, since leadership is a relational process, we need to be aware that without addressing first the causes that hinder an intercultural dialogue - the asymmetric relations of power inherited from colonialism and the ‘epistemicide’ from modernity that either delegitimized or made invisible other ways of knowing, organizing, and leading - what we will have is a monologue executed by the hegemonic paradigm.

According to Escobar (2010), “critiques of modernity, in short, are blind to the (epistemic and cultural) colonial difference that becomes the focus of modernity/coloniality” (p. 40). As Quijano (2010) states, “epistemological decolonization is needed to clear the way for new intercultural communication, for an interchange of experiences and meanings, as the basis of another rationality which may legitimately pretend to some universality” (p. 31). This thinking from the excluded other or thinking otherwise is not just a question of changing the contents of the conversation but the very terms of it (Escobar, 2010). It is a new global and intercultural perspective of leadership understood as a horizontal process that includes the borders and the margins and their people, a decolonial leadership resulting from the encounter of different local perspectives with the aim of creating a global and intercultural approach where one local perspective is not imposed upon the rest and presented as universal.

“The 21st century is witnessing the emergence of the ‘third world countries’ as new world powers demand their liberation from colonial ‘masters’” (Chin & Trimble, 2015, p. 15). Therefore, “global leaders of countries and corporations will need new paradigms of leadership if they are to be responsive to the diversity among their followers and within their institutions” (p. 15). Moreover, leadership in the 21st century will need to address constant change, complexity, and interdependence, and leaders will need to be flexible, critical, and learn collective styles of leadership. As Chin and Trimble (2015) argue, “while this is new in many Western countries, it has been noted to be indigenous in many ‘developing countries’ or non-Western countries” (p. 17). In essence, what it is needed is a revision of leadership theories and the articulation of theories and practices of non-Western cultural approaches that could contribute to develop a new paradigm and more inclusive field of leadership studies understood as a process of liberation at multiple levels.

Notwithstanding, it is important to clarify that the critique to the hegemony of Western knowledge does not imply that Western epistemology is not valuable. A critical and decolonial perspective means that although Western knowledge in general, and Western theories of leadership in particular, are central to understand the complex phenomenon of leadership, they (1) are not the only ones; (2) only represent a local perspective; and (3) need to acknowledge their position of power and privilege regarding other cultures as a result of colonialism and the epistemicide. As Gruffydd Jones (2006) elucidates regarding the group of academics who advocate for the decolonization of international politics/relations

All reject the false universalization of Western standards but simultaneously eschew the dichotomous reaction of universal/Western = bad, particular/local/non-Western = good. They do not ‘drop anchor in nativism,’ as Krishna puts it, or discount that which is valuable in European culture. Rather, the various accounts on this volume (as many other anticolonial, anti-imperialist, and anticapitalist struggles) suggest values of an alternative universalism or unity, rooted in a broader conception of humanity. (p. 225)

In order to have an effective global and intercultural leadership, the goal is to propose a new approach that allows all people to choose, individually or collectively, between various cultural orientations, and, above all, the freedom to produce, criticize, change, and exchange culture and society. In essence, a new paradigm and broader field of leadership studies that goes beyond the Western canon and incorporates emergent processes of political-epistemic resistance and transformation. As Sinclair (2007) states “leadership should be aimed at helping to free people from oppressive structures, practices and habits encountered in societies and institutions, as well as within the shady recesses of ourselves” (p. vx).


To date, although textbooks on leadership are thought from a local Western perspective, they “typically discuss models of leadership as universal phenomena without reference to diversity” (Chin & Trimble, 2015, p. 12). In addition, the current state of leadership studies is concerned with individualistic heroic and leader-centric notions that ultimately are disempowering people and preserving the status quo (Sinclair, 2007), while making invisible collective and communitarian processes of leadership and organization more common in non-Western societies (Jimenez-Luque, 2018). Thus, more research about how leadership processes of decolonizing Western approaches are led or thought of from diverse and non-hegemonic perspectives are needed. As Halperin (2006) argues, “the notion of European modernity was produced as part of a hegemonic project. Our continued acceptance of it and use of it as a basis of theory building contributes to the continuation of that project” (p. 58).

New theories and practices from a non-Western perspective can balance asymmetries of power in society and contribute to decolonizing our minds in order to overcome the obstacles that hinder effective global and intercultural leadership. However, “an anticolonial response ought not to privilege the non-Western as a matter of principle-to do simply mirrors in reverse the logic of imperial value” (Gruffydd Jones, 2006, p. 226). What is needed is a new perspective of decolonial leadership understood as a process that goes beyond the current local and hegemonic paradigm in the field of leadership studies because, although it includes Western perspectives, it (1) would go beyond the Western canon of thought; (2) would value knowledges and epistemologies of critical thinkers from non-Western parts of the world; and (3) would contribute to broadening the field of leadership as a result of a horizontal and critical dialogue between diverse epistemic projects that would facilitate the design of a pluriversal world. This is a huge challenge and, since the field of leadership has the potential for impacting in a beneficial way issues of equity, diversity, and social justice, the creation of a new paradigm of leadership thought from decolonial, global, and intercultural perspectives it is more necessary than ever.


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Editor Note: Jean Lau Chin, EdD, ABPP, Professor of Psychology, Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology, Adelphi University and Joseph E. Trimble, PhD, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Psychology, Western Washington University. Correspondence concerning current or potential newsletter articles and themes should be addressed to Jean Lau Chin. Email:, Telephone: 516.877.4185 or Joseph E. Trimble. Email:; Telephone: 360-650-3058. The authors’ surnames are listed in alphabetic order. Each author has contributed equally to the content of the introduction and forthcoming columns.