This paper seeks to understand leaders as material presences. Leadership theory has traditionally explored
leaders as sites of disembodied traits, characteristics and abilities. Our qualitative, mixed method study
suggests that managers charged with the tasks of leadership operate within a very different understanding.
Their endogenous or lay theory understands leadership as physical, corporeal and visible, and as something
made manifest through leaders’ material presence. This theory-in-practice holds that leadership qualities
are signified by the leader’s physical appearance: the good leader must look the part. Actors consequently
work on their own appearance to present an image of themselves as leader. They thus offer a fundamental
challenge to dominant exogenous, or academic, theories of leadership. To understand the unspoken
assumptions that underpin the lay theory of leadership as material presence, we interrogate it using the new
materialist theory of Karen Barad and the object relations theory of Christopher Bollas. This illuminates
the lay theory’s complexities and sophisticated insights. In academic terms it offers a theory of how sentient
and non-sentient actors intra-act and performatively constitute leadership through complex entanglements
that enact and circulate organizational and leadership norms. The paper’s contribution is thus a theory of
leadership micro-dynamics in which the leader is materialized through practices of working on a corporeal
self for presentation to both self and others.
This paper explores how those charged with the task of being leaders materialize themselves as
leaders within organizations. In some ways leadership theory, as an aspect of organization studies
more generally, has always been a theory of materialities: it presumes leaders influence followers
through the power of their necessarily material, corporeal presence, from where can be beheld their
charisma (Bass, 1985; Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999), authenticity (Gardner, Cogliser, Davis, &
Dickens, 2011; Ladkin & Spiller, 2013) and so on. Contemporary theories of distributed or shared
leadership, that is leadership as group practices, similarly imply corporeal encounters (Ropo &
Sauer, 2008). Yet the ever-expanding literature on leadership somehow de-materializes leadership,
reducing leaders and followers to ‘a shapeless, hapless, colorless, lifeless condition’ (Hansen,
Ropo, & Sauer, 2007, p. 545), where corporeality is an ‘unwanted and unwelcome guest’ (Hansen
et al., 2007, p. 553), and leadership appears as a ‘charisma emanating from nowhere’ (Harding,
Lee, Ford, & Learmonth, 2011), with its embodied, material and mundane aspects rarely accounted
for (Sinclair, 2013).
A small but developing body of literature challenges this ontology of absence. Its focus is
largely on leadership as an embodied, and thus material, practice. It explores such issues as bodily
presence, body language, body work and embodied knowledge (Fisher & Reiser Robbins, 2014;
Ropo & Parviainen, 2001; Ropo & Sauer, 2008; Sinclair, 2005). Guthey and Jackson (2005) have
explored how photographs of leaders provide iconic representations of (otherwise immaterial)
organizations, while Melina, Burgess, Falkman and Marturano’s (2013) text on The Embodiment
of Leadership seeks both to conceptualize the relationship between the body and leadership and
also to explore ways in which to articulate and translate leaders’ embodied knowledge. A special
issue of Leadership (2013) focused on embodiment, aesthetics and affect (Pullen & Vacchani,
2013). Its editors critique the dominance of ‘disembodied, over-cognitivised and pseudo-rational
approaches’ (p. 318) to understanding leadership and advocate research that embraces materiality,
embodiment and corporeality. Ladkin’s (2013) phenomenological account of felt and bodily based
experiences emphasizes the invisible inter-subjective relations at the heart of leadership, interactions
in which bodies, presumed gender and gender appearances are ‘markers’ used by employees
to make sense of leaders and leadership (Muhr & Sullivan, 2013). Leadership can thus be interpreted
as an emergent and creative process of inter-practices of leading and following (Kupers,
2013) that are embodied within space (Ropo, Sauer, & Salovaara, 2013), in ways akin to a musical
performance where leader and follower bodies move and gesture to one another (Bathurst & Cain,
2013). But because passions are embodied in leadership, followers can become demoralized if they
surface in non-charismatic ways (Thanem, 2013).
This body of work argues the merits of understanding leadership as corporeal practice. However,
there is a need for recognition of not only bodies but other materialities such as technologies and
places, as well as discourses, language, power and resistance, in the emergence of leadership
(Pullen & Vacchani, 2013). A few theorists attempt this using actor-network theory. Fairhurst and
Cooren (2009) for example explore how the leader is constituted through the inter-actions of a
plethora of actants, including followers. In Hawkins’ (2015) study of the materialization of leadership
in the British Royal Navy the actants include ship, water and history. Her study illustrates how
non-sentient actors both limit and make possible various leadership practices that may be unique
to such configurations as a ‘Royal’ Navy. Leadership studies, like organization studies more generally,
is thus in the early stages of understanding materialities in the constitution of organizational
phenomena such as leadership, and thus to giving substance to what has previously been insubstantial.
We turn now to our own study, that brings new materialist theory to leadership studies by way
of leaders’ own understanding of how they materialize themselves as leaders.
Our empirical research explored how people charged with the tasks of leadership materialize
themselves as leaders through work on their embodied appearance. It was inspired by research into
leadership training courses, attended by managers worldwide, which teach that leadership is something
that can be seen (Burgoyne, 2004; Ford & Harding, 2007; Smolovic Jones & Jackson, 2015;
Storey, 2011). Managers appear to take this understanding back to their daily practices: within
companies ‘metaphors of the visual, of looking, of being seen, and the light which facilitates seeing
recur when people envisage leadership’ (Harding et al., 2011, p. 935). Our study therefore asked: if
this is the case, how do participants make themselves visible and recognizable as leaders? Data
analysis suggests that leaders draw on an endogenous (Pérezts, Fay, & Picard, 2015) or lay theory
of how to materialize themselves as leaders. Through interrogating this lay theory we show its
sophisticated and complex underpinnings and how, through its location within micro-practices of
leadership, it counters the ontology of absence in exogenous or academic theories of leadership.
Participants’ accounts suggested the value of new materialities theory for organization studies
in general, and leadership studies in particular, because it challenges the dominance of discursive
approaches that explore only language/discourse in the constitution of organizational life, to the
neglect of the actual experience of working as material subjects in physical places. New materialities
theory explores the performative interactions of discourses, sentient participants and non-sentient
actors. It argues that matter is not mute and inert but agentive, immanent and lively: leadership,
it follows, would be constituted as an ‘emergent interplay’ (Tuana, 2008, p. 189) between the cultural
and the natural (Hekman, 2010), an insight shared, as we will see, by leaders themselves.
This paper therefore contributes a new, endogenous theory of the material micro-dynamics of
leadership. It introduces new materialities theories to leadership studies, and takes forward its contribution
to organizational studies more generally. We begin by outlining the academic theory we
used to make sense of the endogenous or lay theory of leadership that informs participants’
accounts. We draw specifically on Karen Barad’s material theory of performativity, combining it
with Christopher Bollas’s understanding of the body in the psyche to address some shortcomings
in the new materialism literatures. We then turn to the analysis of the interview materials.
Bringing Materialism In from its Exile
Unrest at the dominance of discourse has inspired the emergence in the social sciences of ‘new
materialism’ (called ‘new’ to differentiate it from Marxist theories of materialism). This interweaves
the material with the discursive: it regards matter as immanent and lively, and understands
both language and matter as agentive, living energies (Colebrook, 2008). Language, matter, technologies
and other elements are understood to interact in the formation of subjects or ‘reality’,
breaking down classical divisions between culture/nature and sentient/non-sentient (Hekman, 2010).
Two influential review essays (Ashcraft, Khun, & Cooren, 2009; Phillips & Oswick, 2012)
advocate a material turn in organization studies. An ongoing but inconclusive discussion (Hardy
& Thomas, 2015; Orlikowski & Scott, 2015; Putnam, 2015) has debated the merits of such a
move, with Hardy and Thomas (2015) notable in their resistance to the claim that the material turn
is ‘new’. Organization studies, they argue, has always been cognisant of materialities. Others
disagree, including researchers whose empirical studies demonstrate the value of regarding the
material as agentive. For example, Symon and Pritchard’s (2015) study of employees’ use of
smartphones indicates that identity does not determine the use of smartphones but emerges from
the tangle of practices of employee and smartphone resulting in the co-emergence of employee
and smartphone. A similar influence of technology on practices is seen in Orlikowski and Scott’s
(2014, 2015) exploration of how social media has changed ways of evaluating hotels and how this
in turn shapes hotel owners’ activities. Dale and Latham (2015) meanwhile show how it is not so
much entanglements of flesh and prosthetics that constitute certain bodies as dis-abled and others
as able, but discourses of choice and necessity that are entangled with flesh and prosthetics. In a
classic move in new materialities theory, they argue that there is ‘no necessary or essential inside
or outside between human and non-human bodies’ (Dale & Latham, 2015, p. 171) but a ‘cut’ is
performed that creates boundaries between the two.
Karen Barad’s (2007) combining of quantum mechanics with poststructuralist and feminist
accounts in developing a material-discursive theory of performativity is a major influence in new
materialism. She builds on Judith Butler’s highly influential theory of performativity that focuses
on iterability, or ‘constantly repeated “acts”’ (Butler, 1990, 1993), but adds a materialist perspective
that commentators argue is missing from, and thus weakens, Butler’s thesis. Butler takes us to
the level of the iterated movement carried out by a sentient actor but Barad invites us to analyse
each of those reiterated micro-movements and the influence of non-sentient actors. In Barad’s
thesis, the performative should be understood as ‘intra-actions that reconstitute entanglements’
(Barad, 2007, p. 74). The more familiar term, ‘interactions’, refers to relationships between distinct
entities: for Barad there can be no such thing as separate and distinct entities, hence the term ‘intraactions’.
This neologism captures the idea that entities are not ontologically separable – each and
every entity is constituted within and through its meeting with numerous other entities, that affect
it and that it affects. In our case, entities may include actors, suits, mirrors, hair and so on, but each
is not a singular phenomenon. Rather ‘each’ are phenomena that emerge through complex entangled
intra-actions in which all these seeming entities influence and inform each other, and are
entangled with and inseparable from each other. Leaders, suits, mirrors and hair become understood
The term ‘entanglements’ explains this: it refers to the inseparability of subsystems. Subsystems
are mutually informative (Barad, 2007, p. 283) and engaged in ‘intra-actions’ in which each influences
all others and is influenced by all other subsystems in the system (or phenomenon) of which
it is a part. For example, the business suit, the office and discourses of leadership may ‘intra-act’ in
the constitution of leader identities, but they also intra-act to constitute business suit, office and
discourse (Harding, Ford, & Lee, forthcoming). What appear to be distinct entities emerge through
their subsystems and the subsystems’ subsystems, all of which are entangled within and through
each other. What we regard as ‘boundaries’ (such as between suit and body) and ‘entities’ (e.g. the
leader) are performatively constituted through these complex intra-actions.
Here ‘matter’ is an active participant: it is ‘neither fixed nor given … [but] … is produced and
productive, generated and generative. Matter is agentive, not a fixed essence or property of things’
(Barad, 2007, p. 137). From a Baradian perspective, therefore, the leader cannot be understood
separately and distinctively from her material presence, physical location, clothes worn, accessories
and so on: all these affect her as leader even as she affects them as office/suit/briefcase. Barad’s
thesis explains assumptions contained within the endogenous theory of leadership-in-practice told
to us by the research participants.
However, Barad’s thesis cannot account for how subjects emerge in entangled intra-actions –
Barad’s human actor appears agentive but has no more consciousness than non-sentient actors.
How then do bodies and artefacts become agentively incorporated within and through the subjectivities
of leaders? Barad (2007, p. 374) suggests that language or representations are lenses that
mediate between the object world and the mind of the knowing subject, but she does not explore
this assumption’s implications. The version of object relations theory developed by psychoanalyst
Christopher Bollas does, however, do just that. Bollas’s theory of subjectivity highlights how
encounters with objects are consciously thought about or unconsciously absorbed via free associations,
and become part of the internal texture of the self. That is, Bollas explores how the voice
that speaks in one’s ‘mind’ is stimulated into thought through its encounter with external objects
that become internalized as they enter the imagination. This provides the necessary link with
The mind, for Bollas, is restless. It is occupied by constantly flowing streams of thoughts evoked
by the objects it encounters. In his poetic description, ‘As we inhabit this world of ours, we amble
about in a field of pregnant objects that contribute to the dense psychic textures that constitute self
experience. … [We] sort of think … ourself out, by evoking constellations of inner experience’
(Bollas, 1992, pp. 3–4). This is done through both deliberate choice of, and chance encounters
with, people, things and events. ‘Thus we oscillate between thinking ourself out through the selection
of objects that promote inner experience and being thought out, so to speak, by the environment
which plays upon the self’ (Bollas, 1992, p. 4). Much of this is not knowingly or consciously
done; it is ‘only ever partly thinkable’ (Bollas, 1992, p. 29). The ‘psychic intensities’ evoked by
objects are full of latent thoughts that become condensed into single images, much like dreams
condense the events of an entire day (Bollas 1995, pp. 51–5 et passim). Bollas’s theory makes
sense of the work-on-the-self reported by participants in this study and highlights how evocative
objects (such as ‘leader’) ‘“drive a shaft” down into the self’s unconscious, where it will join existent
and moving lines of thought’ (Bollas, 2009, p. 83).
Bollas’s subject is, like Barad’s, heterogeneous and non-linear. His work complements Barad’s
in its recognition of the multiplicity of moment-to-moment intra-actions between materialities,
discourses, affect and, in Bollas’s case, psyches, but it facilitates understanding of how suits,
offices and so on become part of the ‘inner structure’ of the leader. At the same time Bollas’s work
is enhanced by Barad’s much richer perspective on materiality, her emphasis that the encountered
object is agentive, and her questioning the taken-for-grantedness of ‘the suit’, ‘briefcase’ and so on.
This is the theoretical perspective that makes sense of interview materials in which we discussed
with people charged with the tasks of leadership their perspectives on physical appearance,
and the work they did or did not do to (re)present themselves as leaders. We now discuss the
The aim of this study was to develop understanding of leadership as material practice through
engendering insights on whether and how leaders manifest themselves as leaders by and through
their physical appearance. Research into organizational materialities is bedevilled by the problem
that the material can only be approached through the discursive, so studies must infer from the
spoken word how sentient and non-sentient material actors intra-act. We were thus interested in
exploring how participants talk about appearance, how they judge it, its influence on them and the
work they do on their own appearance.
The study’s objectives were to explore leaders’ perceptions of the role of physical appearance in
leadership, how they judged appearance in others, and the work they do or do not do on their own
appearance as part of their materialization of themselves as leaders. Using qualitative research
methods to explore subjective experiences, we interviewed 20 managers who had been on leadership
development programmes or who otherwise described themselves as leaders, using snowball
sampling techniques to identify people from a range of positions, experiences, professions, organizations,
genders and ethnicities. We did not seek a representative sample, not only because there is
no standard population of leaders from which such a sample could be drawn, but also because our
aim as qualitative researchers is not generalization from a sample but theorizing from ‘knowing
Interviews lasted between 60 and 90 minutes and had three stages. The first stage used a life
history approach to develop understanding about the study’s participants and their career path
(Crossley, 2000; Hatch & Wisniewski, 1995). We added to this a question about their appearance
and the work they invest in it.
The second stage involved an adapted repertory grid technique. Repertory grid techniques are
designed to facilitate people’s translation of their mental representations of the world into language
(Kelly, 1955). They enable participants to put into words what is abstract and difficult to
articulate. Like many other users of repertory grid techniques (Fransella, Bell, & Bannister,
2004), we adapted the approach to suit our study by recording and fully transcribing the interviews.
However, we used the traditional repertory grid approach of ‘triading’, that is, we asked
participants to think about two excellent, two average and two poor leaders they have worked
with. Through exploring what they saw as the differences and similarities between random triads
of the people they had chosen, they were able to articulate thoughts they might otherwise not be
able to put into language. We asked them to describe the appearance of each of the people they
had chosen as their exemplars.
In the final stage, we combined repertory grid and photo elicitation techniques so as to mimic
everyday responses to others’ physical presence and explore how participants ‘read’ and interpret
others’ appearance. Photographs (Banks, 2001; Pink, 2007; Rose, 2007) elicit an aesthetic response
to visual stimuli, conjuring up sensory experiences (Warren, 2008) and giving some approximation
to the leader/follower encounter. We presented participants with 50 photographs cut from newspapers
and magazines, of 25 men and 25 women in suits and in less formal dress, covering all ages,
sizes and ethnicities. We asked interviewees to choose two photographs of people they thought
looked like ideal, mediocre and poor leaders. Again we asked them to work with triads, that is, to
compare and contrast excellent with excellent, average and poor, average with excellent and poor,
and so on. We asked them to explain their choices, and to imagine what would be said in an
encounter with the persons in the photograph, something they did without difficulty. This conversational
element gave insights into how participants interact with people they think are excellent,
average or poor leaders.
Data analysis required two stages: data reduction to make manageable the 200,000 words in the
transcripts, and in-depth analysis of the themes that emerged. Data reduction was achieved using
template analysis (King, 2012). This approach involved the development of a coding template
which summarizes a priori themes identified in the literature review as important for the study and
incorporated into the interview schedule. For this study, these themes included ‘work on appearance’,
‘the appearance of leaders they have worked with’ and ‘judgements about appearance’.
Template analysis also allows for the emergence of unanticipated themes, so provides a flexible,
experiential approach that researchers can tailor to their own requirements (King, 2012). King’s
(2012) analytic framework led to the identification of two overarching themes: ‘reading appearance’
and ‘work on the self’. A third theme was to emerge during the second, intense stage of
analysis of the themes.
The second stage involved intense exploration of these two themes. We turned for guidance to
researchers who have worked with Barad’s perspective on performativity (Mazzei, 2014; Taylor &
Ivinson, 2013). Their approach to data analysis focuses on data ‘hot spots’ (MacLure, 2013, in
Ringrose & Renold, 2014) that ‘glow’ for the researcher, whether encountered during the fieldwork,
analysis or later. Authors A and B each chose a transcript from one of the interviews they had
themselves carried out and immersed themselves in it, exploring how each theme ‘spoke’ to them.
All three authors then met and spent 15 hours together debating, discussing and exploring, with
Author C interrogating her colleagues about the reasons why these specific transcripts had been
chosen, and the feelings or responses these particular interviews had evoked in them. In this way
the ‘hot spots’ were shown to be moments in each interview that had evoked chains of thought in
the interviewers (Hollway & Jefferson, 2012). These ‘hot spots’ were then subjected to stringent
analysis, following MacLure’s (2013, in Ringrose & Renold, 2014) suggestion that we should not
rush into fixing meaning but should adopt an ‘affective’ approach that can help slow down our
processing and consider carefully what has captured our interest and fascinated us.
Through this long, intensive process of debate and discussion we recognized something that did
not make sense. The multiple in-depth joint readings and discussions, paragraph by paragraph, of
the two transcripts, resolved into recognition of the similarities between each interviewee’s selfdescription
and that of their ideal leader. We call this third theme, ‘the self as ideal leader’. Checking
showed it appeared in all 20 transcripts. We thus had three themes incorporating a range of material
artefacts (clothes, hair, appearance more generally, and mirrors).
We turn next to the findings. In what follows we outline each of the three themes listed above
and focus predominantly on the two participants whose transcripts we had studied so intensively,
and who embody the organizational problematic (Clarke, 2002). We draw on other participants to
demonstrate how these two speakers articulate perceptions similar to all other interviewees. This
stage of the research led us to recognize an endogenous or lay theory of the materialization of leaders,
that we discuss next.
Pen portraits of Sasha and Richard (pseudonyms) written immediately after the interviews describe
Sasha as a 40-something woman with well-cut hair, dressed neatly and fashionably. An uppermiddle-
level manager in the UK’s National Health Service, she is neither thin nor fat, pretty nor
plain. Her voice is low and well-modulated; she is a little shy but projects warmth and competence.
Richard is 45, a middle manager in the private sector. Slimly built and smart, he takes pride in his
appearance, is loquacious and enthusiastic, ambitious, passionate about leadership, sometimes
deliberate in his choice of language. He seemed an eager and enthusiastic manager who wished to
appear authentic and committed to his work. Both are white and British.
Theme one: Reading appearance
This theme that emerged from the photo elicitation stage of the interviews provides a context for
the remaining themes. ‘Appearance’ here refers primarily to the presentation of the self so as to
‘look good’ or ‘look the part’, but also to how participants thought physical characteristics such as
‘cold eyes’ signified personal characteristics. The word ‘appearance’, used in this sense, is haunted
by its other meaning, of making one’s self manifestly present.
Participants were adept at attaching personal characteristics to people in photographs. We asked
them to select examples of poor, average and excellent leaders from a pile of miscellaneous photos
cut from magazines and newspapers. We did not define ‘poor’, etc., but encouraged participants to
use their own definitions. They selected people whose looks, they felt, represented their leadership
capabilities. Asked to imagine a meeting with each person, they quickly articulated how conversations
might go. Dee (female chartered accountant), chose a ‘guy from the minority community’
who is ‘likely to be more sensitive … but he’s also more likely to stand by what he believes in to
an extent that other people might not be … because if you’ve worked hard to get somewhere you
fight when you’re there’. Chris (female business owner) contrasted two photos, one of a woman
she thought must have ‘an absolute passion for something’ who would be ‘just absolutely, totally
committed to what they’re doing … that can be infectious’; the other of a man with ‘cold eyes’ and
a ‘stern’ face, who would ‘be straight down to business so with no acknowledgement that you’re a
person underneath it all’ and ‘being quite critical and challenging as well … he’s right, he knows
how it should be done, he knows what the answer is’.
These speakers exemplify theories of looking in post-modern capitalism’s ‘looking culture’
(Denzin, 1991), in which the visual representations of material subjects and objects have performative
effects (Barad, 2007), and physical appearance presents an image that communicates identity
(Ashforth & Johnson, 2001; Goffman, 1959; Roberts, 2005; Roberts, Dutton, Spreitzer, Heaphy, &
Quinn, 2005). People are visually literate, so physical appearance can be read not only like any
other image (Rose, 1988), but in ways that are as ‘complicated and indeterminate as any literary
manuscript’ (Grosz, 1994, p. 117).
Richard and Sasha help us understand this. Richard made direct links between objects (such as
hands) and characteristics (such as authority), in the photo he had selected of someone who looked
like an excellent leader:
She has quite a casual look but still a look of quiet authority or, or you know, I think that you can have a
good conversation with her and be quite opinionated … You know, not shabby, casual but very smart …
Her stance, hands in pockets … it looks quite authoritive [sic] there.
With scant, two-dimensional information he generates a description of the sort of person he imagines
this woman to be.
Sasha reacted similarly. She selected as examples of poor leaders two women who were, she
thought, dressed inappropriately for leadership – one ‘looks like she isn’t particularly bothered
about how she’s looking’; of the other: ‘there is something about her expression that is … I wouldn’t
– her clothes wouldn’t seem, wouldn’t be the sort of thing I would wear for work anyway.’ One
woman pictured, Sasha said, ‘looks rather arrogant’ and if she could speak would ‘be quite loud
and quite opinionated, um and probably not ready to listen to other people’s points of view’. The
other would not ‘say anything at all’.
These statements contain judgements located in assumptions that looks reflect behaviour.
Bollas’s philosophy explains how images evoke such understanding: the mind is like a film director,
taking the self through imaginary adventures and anticipated encounters. Freud’s ideas of free
association inspire his argument that ‘we think by not concentrating on anything in particular –
moving from one idea to the next in an endless chain of associations’ (Bollas, 2009, p. 6). That is,
a photo may spark a train of thought that leads to endless further trains. Importantly, those trains of
thought are part of the work of constituting the self, of finding answers to the question: who am I?
Barad’s thesis suggests that not only photos (and artefacts represented therein) set off such trains
of thought, but other artefacts such as desk, interviewer, interviewee, audio recorder, the office and
its furniture, and so on. Each sets off multiply branching trains of thought, so many they barely
influence the conscious mind and remain unspoken. The numerous objects will be defracted
through one another, that is, they will engage in an endless play of intra-acting images and discourses
that challenge boundaries (such as between subject and objects) even while they are active
in making the ‘cut’ through which ‘real’ entities emerge. Bollas and Barad thus complement each
other. Interview participants were inundated by objects and discourses that were all thrown into the
meltingpot of the mind, as it were, where some sort of sense is made of this bombardment as the
subject makes sense of itself, because an ‘illusion of understanding is essential to the creation of
meaning’ (Bollas, 1995, p. 20). In the particular space-time of these interviews, participants configured
themselves as people able to judge a leader’s characteristics through extrapolating from their
This theme suggests that leaders have a theory that physical appearance signifies leadership
abilities. How then does categorization takes place: what heuristic defines excellence, mediocrity
or inability? We explore this question in the third theme, but first we explore how participants work
on their own appearance.
Theme two: Work on the self
Theme one proposes that managers charged with the tasks of leadership believe appearance signifies
leadership qualities. Theme two suggests that they apply this judgemental gaze to themselves:
they work on their own appearance to present an image of themselves that they believe will influence
others. Typical statements include ‘when you’re meeting people for the first time you think
about what impression you’re going to make on them’ because ‘it’s about playing the role so that
people are not taking their eye off who you are and what you do’ (Jo, female, assistant director); ‘I
think appearance is really important … But I think from an impact point of view I think it’s important
that you take care and attention over your clothes’ (Leslie, female, senior administrator); ‘For
me appearance is very, very important. I think it sets an impression straight away of the person that
you are and what you want to achieve’ (Laurie, army captain and environmental manager).
Sasha and Richard similarly judge others by their appearance, presume others will judge them
correspondingly, and aim to dress accordingly. When Sasha says ‘If I see somebody who looks
together and fairly smart, not too trendy or way out, I tend to think that that’s maybe their approach
to life in general’, she makes an epistemological claim that materialities (clothes and other aspects
of appearance) reflect that other’s entire being. Both Sasha and Richard constitute themselves as
leaders within the terms of this claim. Sasha, asked what style of clothes she wore to work,
I do think that how you appear is very important. And because my job relies on me influencing people … I
need to develop a respect and understanding with them very quickly and I’m very conscious that when I
meet somebody for the first time I’m very aware of the impression they create and I assume that’s what’s
happening with other people as well.
Sasha’s answer starts with an unprompted measure of the value of appearance, followed by an
insight into her personal theory of why appearance is important. This is: appearance is a material
signification of a person’s ‘character’; people possess the skills of being able to read another’s
visual presentation of itself; when people meet they judge the other through extrapolating from
appearance to character. This, perhaps, is a lay version of Grosz’s (1994) and Kirby’s (1997) arguments
that flesh and bodies are themselves texts, and, in our case, of how appearance is also a text.
Richard’s answer to the same question expands upon the agentive aspects contained within this
theory. He describes using appearance as a tool for leading change:
Two years ago when I joined the production facility … I turned up with a new suit. And I’ll wear white
shirts … but people say ‘You can’t run production like that’ and I say ‘well why not?’ … These guys have
seen something you know one way for the last five years, maybe part of the step change is I look different
and I act different to the previous manager.
Both knowingly use dress to aestheticize themselves and project an image they believe will work
upon and influence others. They check their success at achieving the necessary guise through
looking in the mirror every morning: ‘Every day before I go out of the house, even though I’m
working in a manufacturing environment I’ll still look and take a second look or say to my wife
“Do I look alright?”’ (Richard). Sasha is emotionally affected by the image reflected back at her:
‘I’m obviously very conscious about appearance. Um, I hate going to work on a bad hair day
(laughs). I do my hair.’
Sasha’s and Richard’s lay theory of the signification effects of appearance is shared by all participants
in this study. Indeed, other studies have explored how staff knowingly choose clothes that
portray a desired image (Rafaeli, Dutton, Harquail, & Mackie-Lewis, 1997), although conscious
image management is often achieved without knowledge of the multiple layers of meaning embedded
in their clothes (Pratt & Rafaeli, 1997). However, such studies presume it is the clothes-wearers
who are agentive; we explore below the agency of business wear and accompanying artefacts.
These first two themes suggest a lay or endogenous theory of leadership, a theory-in-practice,
which states that work on one’s physical appearance is important because self-presentation signifies
leadership capabilities. Bollas’s emphasis on the importance of sight in forming the self helps
explain this. Following Winnicott (1967) he argues that being seen (via the parental gaze and the
reflection of the infant in the face of the mother or father) is important in the initial emergence of
the infant as an ‘I’ with a sense of itself as a self. This continues throughout life – one emerges as
an ‘I’, from moment to moment, through recognition given when subjecting oneself to the gaze of
the other. That is, the subject (me, the leader) works on itself to present itself as an object (the
embodiment of leadership) that requires approbation and thus proof of success from other objects
(colleagues, followers, customers and clients).
Barad agrees: subject and object are inseparable and co-emergent. Rather than fixing subject
and object in advance, we should ‘read insights through one another in ways that help illuminate
differences as they emerge: how different differences get made, what gets excluded, and how these
exclusions matter’ (Barad, 2007, p. 30). That is, participants should be understood not as subjects
(me) describing objects (hair, suits, shirts) but as co-emerging and multiply intra-acting actants. If
this is the case, then language, clothes, hair, make-up, discourses and the norms they carry, including
those of gender, organizations and hierarchies, technology, mirrors, assessments and so on, all
intra-act so that the leader-self performatively emerges within moment-to-moment intra-actions
with, say, clothes that are performatively constituted as ‘business wear’. Bollas shows us the
importance of the witness, the judgmental gaze of the other, in this emergence. We expand on this
below, when we interrogate this endogenous theory of leadership’s materialization.
The third theme explores the gauge against which participants assess how they look.
Theme three: The self as ideal leader
We asked participants to define what they understood as ‘poor’, ‘average’ and ‘excellent’ leaders
in a separate part of the interviews from that which asked them to describe themselves. Crosschecking
their definitions of themselves with their definitions of leadership illuminated that leaders’
own self-concept is the measure against which they define ‘excellent’ leadership and against
which they judge others. That is, ‘excellent’ leaders are similar to, and poor leaders different from,
how they see themselves. There is thus much variation in definitions of leadership qualities.
Jay, for example, described herself as short and looking too young for her job. Overall her selftalk
is of androgyny:
‘I dress very neutrally for work and that’s very conscious. […] My clothing is not a statement in any way,
my jewellery is not a statement in any way. My hair, makeup, it’s extremely neutral. [….] I don’t wear
sexual clothing at all so I don’t wear tight skirts.’
She chose ideal leaders who were similarly androgynous: ‘My ideal … leader is neither a man nor
a woman and … they wouldn’t wear clothes that were sexualized in any way.’ One of her choices
of an excellent leader, ‘was [like her] quite short. He … was very concerned to be very neutral at
work.’ Jo, meanwhile, was consciously surprised that all her choices of leaders were men, but her
self-description is of someone who strips all signifiers of femininity from her appearance – she
does not wear high heels, wears little make-up and emphasizes that she does not ‘have my finger
nails painted, I don’t really show my nails at work’. Leslie, on the other hand, does a great deal of
work on her appearance, describing it in depth: everything has to look right. She distinguished her
ideal from mediocre leaders by the amount of attention they paid to detail: ‘those two [excellent
leaders] have a quality of appearance and care over their appearance’. Ray, passionate about his
work and wearing suits only when he has to, specified that excellent leaders were similarly not
bothered about appearance but were highly engaged in their work; like him they focused on ‘substance’
rather than ‘surface’.
Thus for the androgyne the excellent leader is an androgyne; for the masculine female the ideal
leader is masculine; for the enthusiast the ideal leader is enthusiastic; and so on. We explore the
significance of this below.
Richard is the only participant who specifically stated that excellent leaders looked like him:
‘What would they look like? Mmm. Me!’ Others did not appear consciously aware of the similarities
between their self-definitions given at the start of the interviews and their later descriptions of
excellent leaders. However, Richard gives us insights into the relationship between self-concept
and the excellent-leader concept. Richard identified only one person as an excellent leader: himself,
but defines himself in relation to others he regards as bad leaders. He focused on bullies: one
ex-boss was the: ‘Absolute biggest bully I’ve ever met in my life. … you thought, I’m dealing with
… a barrow boy who can rip me to pieces if I step out of line. His predecessor in his current job
was a ‘bad’ leader because of his bullying and destructive behaviour. Richard sees his role as protecting
staff from bullies: he took his team with him when he left a firm run by a bully, and is
changing the bullying culture bequeathed by his predecessor in his current job.
Richard defines poor leaders as the opposite of himself: he is compassionate, they are bullies;
he dresses smartly, they are unkempt. However, he refused to identify anyone except himself as an
excellent leader, always turning the discussion back to himself if asked to describe excellence in
‘an ideal leader … would pass [their] knowledge on, they would share that knowledge … They don’t take
over and take the glory … You know, I could take tools off some of my workers, in fact I have you know
taken a saw off someone as recently as three weeks ago and I said “Look, you’re going to hurt yourself,
this is how you use a saw.” … That is coaching. If I completed the job and finished it and polished it all up
and stood back and said what a good job I’ve done, that would be totally wrong.’
Richard consciously articulates what appears in other participants’ talk to be an ‘unthought known’
(Bollas, 1987), that is something that is apprehended but not yet consciously articulated. Sasha
typifies this. She denies that she is a leader:
‘I certainly don’t think of myself as charismatic. I think I am (long pause) I think I’m reliable and I provide
reassurance, I provide a (long pause) I think I probably lead from the side rather than lead from the front,
so I’ll be a very good lieutenant for the charismatic leader … (long pause). In fact I’m not sure that I’m
much of a leader at all really.’
However, contradictions between this statement and her self-concept and definitions of excellent
leadership emerge in the transcript. An excellent leader:
‘would be somebody who gets results, because you can talk until the cows come home and you can be full
of good i.. good visions and you can (laughs) pontificate at great length but unless there’s actually some
substance behind it and you can see that things are changing and you’re achieving what you’re trying to
achieve then, …’
Sasha dismisses theories of leadership. The talk that, say, transformational leaders should do in
sharing their vision is something she denigrates as ‘pontification’: she prefers ‘seeing’ changes
happen in the present. She emphasizes ‘doing’ as the ideal leadership characteristic. It is interesting
then that she described herself as: ‘I’m more a doer and a person that does the background, the
spadework to make things happen.’ For Sasha, getting things done distinguishes excellent from
poor leaders, and she describes herself as someone who gets things done. She may not admit it,
may not be consciously aware of it, but her understanding of the excellent leader is mimetic of her
image of herself.
In these accounts the speakers talk of ‘character’ and ‘personality’ rather than appearance. In
Bollas’s terms ‘character’ and ‘personality’ are woven into one’s physical presence, that is, into a
‘personal idiom’ or aesthetic of being, an ‘itness’ that distinguishes one person from another
(Bollas, 2007). This includes the voice, manners of speech, how the person moves and uses their
body, the texture added when occupying spaces and the shape of their absence after they leave.
Elusive, it is an important feature of unconscious communication (Bollas, 1992, pp. 64–5 et passim).
Bollas thus expands upon Barad’s understanding of materialities in an important way. Barad
includes specific human actors, such as Ronald Reagan and Alan Turin, in her accounts of intraaction
and entanglement (see model in Barad, 2007, p. 389), but she does not ‘deconstruct’ them,
as it were. Introducing Bollas’s understanding of the complexities of individuals is therefore invaluable
in illuminating how an individual’s affect, aesthetics, sensory signals and responses are
entangled in intra-actions of ‘personal idiom’ and materialities.
This third theme suggests that, conscious of it or not, individuals’ definitions of leadership
qualities reflect perceptions of their own self. In some ways this echoes long-standing research by
social psychologists which suggests that people are attracted to those who resemble themselves
(e.g. Bretz, Ash, & Dreher, 1989). But in the terms of this study, the direction of influence is
unclear: do people define leadership based on their self-perception, or do they model themselves
on their definition of leadership? Barad would rule this question inadmissible: self-definitions are
not prior to conceptions of leadership, nor conceptions of leadership prior to self-definitions: each
is complexly entangled and intra-acting.
Summary: An Endogenous Theory of the Materialization of
In aiming to understand how leadership is made palpably, materially present, this paper has analysed
interview materials that suggest managers charged with be(com)ing leaders work within the
terms of an endogenous theory of the materialization of leadership. Their lay theory, or theory-inpractice,
is that: others’ leadership qualities can be read off from how they look; one’s own physical
presentation therefore must represent one’s own leadership abilities; and so physical appearance
must be worked on to project images of the self’s qualities as a leader. Participants’ own selfimage,
consciously or unconsciously, matches their image of the ideal leader. Pérezts et al.’s (2015)
distinction between exogenous and endogenous theories of ethics is useful in locating this lay
theory. That is, rather than exogenous perspectives that dominate leadership theory through prescribing
how leadership should be practised, this endogenous leadership theory is subjective and
conceives of leadership, like ethics, as an ‘ongoing organizational phenomena … pertaining to
being’ and thus leadership, like ethics, is ‘an epicentre … embedded in … subjects’ (p. 218) rather
than in academic or management consulting theories. However, where Pérezts et al. explore
embodiment, our focus is on appearance, that is, on what covers over the flesh of bodies.
This endogenous theory’s focus is on a morphology of the material self as something that can
be manipulated through working on one’s appearance. There was no mention of flesh or bone, illness
or disability in the interviews, so the body itself was absent from the discourses through which
participants articulated their accounts of leadership (Leder, 1987). References focused on those
aspects of appearance that are amenable to being worked upon by the subject – their clothes, hair,
and so on – and presented to others (and the self) as if it were the literal embodiment of leadership
However, there was no overt theorizing by participants about how working on one’s appearance
makes one’s leadership qualities, and thus leadership, manifest. We have indicated above certain
similarities between lay accounts and Barad’s new materialities theory, albeit that participants’
accounts, unsurprisingly, use simpler language. We next draw on Barad and Bollas to explore how
the concepts embedded in this endogenous theory explain how it ‘works’. This shows how sophisticated
and complicated it is, and thus how the theory we develop in this paper offers a new, experiential
account of leadership as material micro-practices.
Discussion: Towards a Theory of Leadership as Material Micropractices
of the Self
The long history of exogenous or externally imposed theories of leadership has been based on
presumptions about leadership that are unsupported by in-depth exploration of leadership-inpractice.
Indeed, some have questioned whether there is such a thing as ‘leadership’, with difficulties
in observing it in practice leading to suggestions of leadership as a negative ontology (Kelly,
2014). However, the ubiquity of the term itself, its incorporation in business school degrees and
participation by numerous managers in leadership training courses suggest the performativity of
the term brings that very thing, leadership, into being (Ford & Harding, 2007). But definitions of
leadership are ambiguous and conflicting (Harding, Lee, & Ford, 2014), and ‘so we go – as language
permits – repeating a never-ending chain of ambiguous signifiers, attached to other ambiguous
signifiers, and so on, as if there were somewhere an original – fully present to itself’ (Calas,
1993 p. 323). Calas is here talking about charisma, but her arguments can be applied to leadership
more generally. We have seen in this study that the ambiguity of definitions of excellent and poor
leadership is resolved by participants drawing on their self-image as a way of achieving clarity
about this identity they have been told they must adopt. They turn themselves into leaders through
making themselves look like how they think leaders should look.
We next explore this lay theory’s explanatory power. We read it through Barad’s and Bollas’s
work, thus suggesting this endogenous theory’s complexity. It is a theory of how non-sentient
actors convey a multiplicity of complex and even chaotic images that are condensed, in the mind’s
meltingpot, into what appears as a deceptively simple account: by looking like the kind of leader I
rate, I become more that kind of leader.
We follow our speakers’ focus on dress and mirrors, understanding them as agentive actors that
performatively materialize leaders. New materialism understands objects as agentive – they act
upon the world. This is echoed by the participants in this study: appropriate appearance signifies
their leadership qualities. That is, clothes, hair, make-up and so on are, in academic terms, themselves
morphologically active and generative agents. This does not negate or reverse the sentient
actor’s agency, but leads to an understanding of the constitutive interaction of sentient and nonsentient
actors. Sasha put this graphically in referring to a ‘bad hair day’ – on such days her work
on her hair fails because it refuses to present itself as she desires. In some ways the intra-actions of
self and ‘bad hair’ constitute her as ‘not-leader’ or ‘not-good-leader’, at least for a day. The rarity
of such direct references to materiality’s agency necessitates exploration through other avenues.
Barad suggests (2007, p. 370) that a specific body’s ‘differential materialization is discursive –
entailing causal practices reconfiguring boundaries and properties that matter to its very existence’.
In our study this reconfiguration involves the transcendence of flesh, as seen in the absence from
the interviews of any mention of bodies and flesh. No doubt water, deodorants, soap, showers,
shampoo, scissors, emery boards and so on were used by participants to achieve contemporary
standards of hygiene, but their absence from the interviews signifies that in lay theory leaders transcend
nature and the disruptive aspects of bodies (Kem, 1974). Bodies and embodiment appear in
lay leadership theory only as an absent presence, controlled and then forgotten about.
The non-sentient actor of most importance in the interviews is business dress. It is here understood
as agentive, influencing the materialization of leaders through what Barad (2007) terms
causally productive forces of knowing and being. That is, in putting on the suit, as participants
described it, they became leaders. But why does business dress signify professionalism (Kelan,
2013) and ‘the business leader’ while other forms of clothing do not (Mavin & Grandy, 2016)?
The business suit’s discourse constitutes wearers through its imposition of these norms. Leaders,
looking in mirrors at their besuited reflections, may have little conscious awareness of these
instructions beyond somehow knowing what is ‘right’: they swim in the discourse of the suit with
its sedimented layers of meanings, and, as Barad argues, are performatively evoked within and by
Bollas explains this through a theory of ‘object relations’ or relationship between the psyche and
objects. This provides a means for understanding how ‘leader’ and ‘business suit’ constitute each
other. Bollas understands individuals as a unique set of evolving theories that articulates its theory
of who it is by selecting, using and being used by objects. The object here is the reflection of the
putative leader, seen in a mirror. A glance in a mirror is an extraordinarily complex soliciting of the
self through an experience (of endless ‘free associations’) that involves a dense condensation of
known, half-known and unknown stimuli experienced in the encounter with the object (Bollas,
1992, p. 29). It is only ever partly thinkable, a tumble of virtually simultaneous thoughts evoked by
the glance in the mirror and rendered comprehensible through an image (me, the leader, in a suit)
that simplifies radically all that is absorbed in that single glance. In reducing complexity to simplicity
the mind does not eradicate the multiple meanings that are communicated in that glance in
the mirror – they are there as subtexts, unconscious but agentive.
Business dress and mirror together thus act, effecting the leader through the tumble of meanings
represented and encapsulated within it. So the answer to the question posed above, of why it is the
business suit or its equivalent and not other forms of dress that constitutes leadership, is that business
wear forms a visual discourse encapsulating norms, histories, cultures, economics, class, gender
and so on that other forms of dress typically do not offer. In other words, when dressing so as
to look the part of the leader, the actor is immersed in norms that have evolved over decades, if not
centuries. New labels may be attached to the suit-wearer: ‘leader’ rather than ‘manager’ or ‘administrator’
(Learmonth, 2005), but the norms encapsulated in the suit inform wearers how to look,
how to act and how to take on the identity of ‘leader’, through these everyday, material micropractices
of the self.
A certain agency is permissible within these norms: we saw that participants chose their own
self-image as a reflection of the excellent leader. Some, for example, were androgynes, some
highly disciplined, some masculine and others rebels who defined themselves through refusing to
wear suits. They worked on their appearance to project the desired image of the leader-self. So, for
example, the masculine female chooses short hair, severe suits and no ornamentation, each of these
carrying norms that, entangled, spoke of her as a masculine leader. But none defined themselves as
very feminine, or dishevelled, or casual – such clothing and its related manifestations do not inherit
the centuries of meaning of the business suit, and cannot therefore do service in the materialization
of the leader.
It is curious then that there was so little reference to charisma in any of these interviews, even
though, as Calas (1993) reminds us, it has been integral to dominant (exogenous) theories of
leadership since Weber identified charisma as a legitimate form of authority (Weber, 1946). Calas
points out indeed (1993, p. 324) that ‘transformational’ and other theories of leadership are ‘surrogates’
of Weber’s theory of charisma. Participants demonstrated their knowledge of theories of
leadership through speaking of their desire to be transformational or authentic, yet the word ‘charisma’
was only mentioned in one interview as part of a claim by Sasha that she did not perceive
herself as charismatic.
Could it be then, as Weber wrote in his later work, that charisma has become routinized, or
domesticated (Calas, 1993)? In other words, rather than it encapsulating an aesthetic encounter
between leader and follower as Ladkin more recently (2006) suggested, is charisma incorporated
into that everyday glance in the mirror when the putative leader checks that they look like the
leader they desire to be? Ladkin (2006) writes, following Weber, that the ‘follower must believe in
the leader’s charisma’. Our study implies that leaders must believe in their own charisma if they
are to be leaders. Borrowing again from Pérezts et al. (2015), could we say that charisma is now so
routinized that it is ‘an epicentre … embedded in .. subjects’ (p. 218)? The glance in the mirror, in
this reading, becomes a sublime encounter (Ladkin, 2006) in which the putative leader not only
persuades themselves that they look like a leader should look, but that those looks mark them out
as special enough to be excellent leaders.
This is only speculation: it suggests that the next stage in exploring this endogenous theory of
leadership is a study of those who feel themselves incapable of being leaders, or who can report as
having failed at leadership. What do they see when they look in the mirror?
In summary, the seemingly mundane tasks of preparing for work through showering, dressing
and making the self presentable can be understood as complexly coded acts of materialization of
norms, codes, cultures, histories, economics, legal systems and so on, all of which coalesce as rules
about how ‘the leader’ should look. Participants in this study encapsulated this themselves in an
endogenous theory that understands that leadership emerges through work on the self.
Conclusion: Future Research?
Leadership theories have omitted materialities such as the physical presence of leaders from their
understanding of how, say, the transformational leader emanates charisma (Bass, 1985), the authentic
leader makes her authentic self available for the emulation of followers (Bass & Steidlmeier,
1999), the servant-leader provides a model to inspire followers (Greenleaf, 1977), and so on. In
these dominant exogenous theories leadership is understood to be something peculiar to certain
individuals who possess the desired characteristics (Collinson, 2014; Ladkin, 2010), but these
individuals seem disembodied (Pullen & Vacchani, 2013), as if they have no material presence.
Such perspectives have recently been radically challenged by constructionist accounts (Fairhurst &
Grant, 2010) that explore how leadership emerges through interactions between leaders and followers
(Bligh, Kohles, & Pillai, 2011). This implies the presence of physical selves in material
places, but as yet the materialities of such encounters between leaders and followers remain
Our study however sets out an endogenous theory of leadership in which the leader emerges as
a material presence through intra-actions between the subject and non-sentient actors such as the
business suit and the mirror. That is, before appearing on the organizational stage in which interactions
between leaders and followers can occur, those who must take on the mantle of organizational
leadership have worked on themselves through micro-practices of the self to constitute themselves
as material articulations of leadership. In this perspective, there is no leader who pre-exists leadership
practices, as the long history of leadership theory has presumed. Rather, the leader must constitute
him/herself as leader and then perhaps practise leadership. However, leadership’s long
history has informed leaders about what ‘the leader’ should be: the business suit and other aspects
of their appearance encapsulate and articulate these norms and discourses of leadership.
This study, in contributing to leadership theory and thus to organizational theory more generally,
did not explore intra-actions between leader-selves and organizational space, where buildings,
technology, furniture and decor intra-act with suits, hair, briefcases and individuals constituting
themselves as leaders, so further study is needed. Power has appeared only implicitly in this paper
– it needs explicit exploration. For example, the absence of bodies from leadership theory, which
we observed in the introduction to this paper, is a form of architectural regulation that is an operation
of power (Butler, 2015) and needs to be understood through further research.
This paper thus offers a new theory of leadership that emerges from practitioners’ own experiential
understanding of leadership in everyday practice. This endogenous theory challenges the
terms of exogenous theories, and suggests the need for further studies of how leaders articulate and
understand leadership in the everyday of organizational life.
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit
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Jackie Ford is Professor of Leadership and Organization Studies at Bradford University School of Management.
Her research interests include critical studies of working lives, with a particular interest in making sense of
leadership, gender, ethics and management practices. She has co-authored a monograph entitled Leadership
as Identity: Constructions and Deconstructions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); co-edited Making Public
Services Management Critical (Routledge, 2010); co-edited a textbook, Leadership: Contemporary Critical
Perspectives (Sage, 2015); and has published in a range of journals including British Journal of Management,
Human Relations, Journal of Management Studies, Leadership, Management Learning, Organization,
Organization Studies, Sociology and Work, Employment and Society.
Nancy Harding is Professor of Organization Theory at Bradford University School of Management. Her
research focus is on critical approaches to understanding organizations, and her particular interest is working
lives. She has published papers in journals such as Human Relations, Organization Studies, Journal of
Management Studies, Organization and Sociology. Her books include an exploration of the social construction
of the manager (Routledge, 2003), and the social construction of the employee (Routledge, 2013). The
social construction of the organization is due to be submitted in 2017. She is co-author of books on the social
construction of dementia (Harding and Palfrey, 1997), leadership as identity (Ford, Harding and Learmonth,
2008) and, with Marianna Fotaki, on bringing feminism into 21st-century organization studies (Routledge,
Sarah Gilmore is Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Business School. Her primary research has been
carried out at a range of elite sports clubs and governing bodies with a particular focus on organizational
change, psychoanalysis and the professionalization of elite sports. Her work has been published in Human
Relations, Management Learning, Canadian Journal of Administrative Science and Journal of Organizational
Change Management, and has featured in a range of sports science journals. She is an editorial board member
of Organization and the Canadian Journal of Administrative Science.
Sue Richardson is Lecturer at Bradford University School of Management. Sue has carried out research into
organizational change especially in relation to information and communication technology, public sector
partnership working, and interprofessional and interagency information sharing, with a particular focus on
‘practices of confidentiality’. She has published in journals such as Sociology, Social Policy and Administration,
British Journal of Social Work and Evaluation.