Leadership, Language and Identity

Worldliness in Leadership and Language

• Gosling and Mintzberg (2003)

–The 5 minds of a manager – reflective, analytical, collaborative, action and worldly

–Worldly manager is somebody who is devoted to the temporal world and experienced in human affairs

–It is also somebody who is aware of not only his/her own but also other’s belief sets, values and able to interpret and understand different behaviours and attitudes

• Jepson (2010) and Schedlitzki et al (2017a)

–Language as cultural voice

–Impact on how we research into leadership across countries and how we develop leaders

–Calls for emic approaches (looking out from the inside)

Worldliness in Leadership and Language

• Gosling and Mintzberg (2003)

–The 5 minds of a manager – reflective, analytical, collaborative, action and worldly

–Worldly manager is somebody who is devoted to the temporal world and experienced in human affairs

–It is also somebody who is aware of not only his/her own but also other’s belief sets, values and able to interpret and understand different behaviours and attitudes

• Jepson (2010) and Schedlitzki et al (2017a)

–Language as cultural voice

–Impact on how we research into leadership across countries and how we develop leaders

–Calls for emic approaches (looking out from the inside)

Leadership and Language

• Language as ‘constituting reality’ (Wittgenstein, 1953)

• Language is often ignored in leadership research (and practice?)

• Leadership as the ‘management of meaning’ (Smircich and Morgan, 1982)

• Three approaches to leadership and language:

–Leadership and Discourse

–National Language

–Communication Models

Leadership and Discourse

• Discourse – ‘…a system of texts that brings objects into being’ (Hardy, 2001: 26)

• Texts can stem from or be shared by a variety of discourses yet are interpreted/translated differently through the lenses of different discourses

• Discursive Leadership Studies (Fairhurst, 2011) – interested in local meanings and local situatedness of leadership contrary to the generalisable models of mainstream theory

• Everyday talk in-action (Larsson and Lundholm, 2010, 2013)

• Leader identities discursively constructed (Clifton, 2014)

National Language

• Only recently has leadership studies (and practice?) paid direct attention to national languages and differences in representation

• Taoism in ancient Chinese (Prince, 2006) highlights differences between western and non-western conceptualisations

• Lao (Case et al., 2017) and sub-Saharan African (Eyong, 2016) languages, German (Jepson, 2010), Spanish (Gaggiotti and Mare, 2017), Dutch (Karsten and Hendriks, 2016) and Welsh (Schedlitzki et al., 2017)

Communication Models

• The importance of good communication skills (Bratton et al., 2005), not only should leaders be able to communicate ideas, tell stories and be an active listener

• Storytelling and a means for leadership to communicate ideas (Hatch et al., 2005)

• Storytelling, and the relative importance of storytelling in different cultures and languages

• Meaning making (Smirich and Morgan, 1982)

• Sense making (Pye, 2005)

Reflective Questions

What languages are you familiar with and how do they make meaning in different ways?
What languages might you be working with and how might you manage meaning?

Leadership as Identity (Ford, 2010 and Ford et al., 2008)

• Identities are never fixed or finite – they are always changing and evolving

–An individual carries with him/her at any point in time a multiplicity of possible selves

–Identities are not pre-given essences of self but socially constructed and fluid

• Leadership as empty signifier (Laclau) and its implications for manipulation of meaning

• Pressure on managers to become leaders and adopt dominant organisational leader identity and that presented in the wider leadership literature

Leadership as Identity (Ford, 2010 and Ford et al., 2008)

•Performative role of leadership literature:

–Reading the literature has a lasting impact on who we think leaders are and how they should be – on leader’s identity

–Leaders are largely portrayed as transcendental, perfect beings and also as masculine competitive, aggressive, controlling and self-reliant individuals

–Increasingly managers are asked to not just do a role but to become leaders, i.e. adopt the identity prescribed by literature

• In reality nobody can live up to the expectations set by the literature and in organisations

–We have multiple competing identities, not just one fixed one

–Leaders often have to ignore their preferred identity in favour of the masculine, aggressive one they think is expected of them

The Performative Effect

“…forms of authoritative speech perform certain actions that cause things to have existence…it is through acts of speaking and writing that things come into existence”

(Ford et al. 2008: 5)

“…both sex and gender are achieved through discourses and repeated performance.”

(Ford et al. 2008: 5; cf: Butler 1993)

Research can ‘actively construct the very reality [it] is attempting to investigate.’

(Chia, 1996)

“…any writer who adopts a post-structuralist stance must explore the academic self that informs and is constructed through the writing, that is, how do I (this particular individual writing these words) infect my writing and who do I become as a result of doing this writing?”

(Ford et al. 2008: 27)

…the becoming of the leader involves the psyche, the memory, interactions between selves and texts, interactions with others, interactions between different aspects of self, the local context, the geography, the culture. Leadership comes to the subject (who will be a leader) laden with the heroes of millennia of storytelling. It has a history.”

(Ford et al. 2008: 27)

Funniest Leadership Speech ever!

Desire and Anxiety in Leadership

• Sacred in Leadership (Grint, 2010), existential anxiety and persistence of individually focussed conceptualisations of leader and follower

• Desire and Anxiety:

–Desire to become a leader – never-ending process of becoming

–Desire to be led – silencing anxieties

–Anxiety created by competing leadership identities

–Anxiety as antecedent and outcome of never-ending process of becoming a leader

What does this mean for leadership?

• Avoid presenting leadership as a fixed role or identity that we can adopt and develop

• Encourage awareness of different possible selves as leaders, followers and both

• Deal with emotions and anxieties during process of becoming and being a leader

• Strengthen voices of alternative leadership models than the masculine, competitive, aggressive, self-reliant individualist one

• Reconnect with context and community and become inclusive and welcoming of critical and creative views of others

References

•Bratton, J., Grint, K. and Nelson, D. (2005) Organizational Leadership. London: Thomson Learning.

•Case, P., Connell, J.G. and Jones, M.J., 2017. The language of leadership in Laos. Leadership, 13(2), pp.173-193.

•Clifton, J., 2014. Small stories, positioning, and the discursive construction of leader identity in business meetings. Leadership, 10(1), pp.99-117.

•Eyong, J.E., 2017. Indigenous African Leadership: Key differences from Anglo-centric thinking and writings. Leadership, 13(2), pp.133-153.

•Fairhurst, G.T. (2011) Discursive approaches to leadership. In A. Bryman, D. Collinson, K. Grint, B. Jackson and M. Uhl-Bien (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Leadership. London: Sage, 495–507.

•Ford, J. et al. (2008) Leadership as identity. Palgrave, Ch. 1, 3

•Ford, J. (2010) Studying Leadership Critically: a psychosocial lens on leadership identities, Leadership, Vol. 6(1), pp. 47-65.

•Gaggiotti, H. and Marre, D., 2017. The words leader/líder and their resonances in an Italo-Latin American multinational corporation. Leadership, 13(2), pp.194-214.

•Gosling, J. and Mintzberg, H. (2003) The five minds of a manager. Harvard Business Review, 81(11): 54–63.

References 2

•Hardy, C., 2001. Researching organizational discourse. International studies of management & organization, 31(3), pp.25-47.

•Hatch, M. J., Kostera, M. and Kozminski, A. J. (2005) The Three Faces of Leadership: Manager, Artist, Priest. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

•Jepson, D. (2010) The importance of national language as a level of discourse within individuals’ theorising of leadership – a qualitative study of German and English employees, Leadership, Vol. 69(4), pp. 425-446 

•Karsten, N. and Hendriks, F., 2017. Don’t call me a leader, but I am one: The Dutch mayor and the tradition of bridging-and-bonding leadership in consensus democracies. Leadership, 13(2), pp.154-172.

•Larsson, M. and Lundholm, S.E., 2010. Leadership as work-embedded influence: A micro-discursive analysis of an everyday interaction in a bank. Leadership, 6(2), pp.159-184.

•Larsson, M. and Lundholm, S.E., 2013. Talking work in a bank: A study of organizing properties of leadership in work interactions. Human Relations, 66(8), pp.1101-1129.

•Prince, L. (2006) Eating the menu rather than the dinner: Tao and leadership. Leadership, 1(1): 105–126.

•Schedlitzki, D., Ahonen, P., Wankhade, P., Edwards, G. and Gaggiotti, H., 2017a. Working with language: A refocused research agenda for cultural leadership studies. International Journal of Management Reviews, 19(2), pp.237-257.

•Schedlitzki, D., Edwards, G. and While, G., 2017b. Leadership, management and the Welsh language. European Management Review, 14(1), pp.19-31.

•Smircich, L. and Morgan, G. (1982) Leadership: The management of meaning. Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 18: 257–273

•Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwells.