A Discursive Investigation of Leading in Organisational Conversations

Hollis, David (2015). A Discursive Investigation of Leading in Organisational Conversations. MRes thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000efc1


This paper considers “leadership as a process of social construction” (Uhl-Bien, 2006, p. 254). Using Wood’s (2005) process ontology this paper differs from the majority of other studies within relational perspectives of leadership (which demarcate who leaders ‘are’ before process is studied; Ramsey, 2013). This paper uses Wood’s perspective to explore how social constructions of leadership and of leaders are continually (re)produced in-process. Using Gergen’s (1994) ‘act + supplement’ theory to explore the performative effect (Searle, 1969; Austin, 1975) of conversations, this paper draws on the studies of Packendorff, Crevani, and Lindgren (2014), Crevani (2011) and Crevani, Lindgren, and Packdendorff (2010) by exploring the (re)production of direction in conversations as micro-processes of leadership. This paper also builds on Crevani and colleagues’ studies by focusing on the role of linguistic devices in the (re)production of leadership and leader constructions. In doing so this paper offers an alternative to studies that have explored the effect of leaders uni-directional use of linguistic devices on their followers (e.g. Eisenberg, 1984; Astley and Zammuto, 1992; Watson, 2004). Participant observation of a sales and marketing meeting and unstructured interviews with some of the attendees was carried out. Within conversations, talk about events, problems and opportunities were constructed into issues. These issues (re)produced direction (as a microprocess of leadership) by focusing actors’ attention and widening out or narrowing down social realities. The findings also highlight the subtlety through which leadership positions emerge. This was done through an extension and concertina of hierarchy which appeared within conversations, with some actor’s talk positioning both themselves and others as being responsible for contributing to social realities.

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