• Becoming the leader: leadership as material presence

      Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Gilmore, S.; Richardson, Sue (2017-11-01)
      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 materialised through practices of working on a corporeal self for presentation to both self and others.
    • Critical essay: reconsidering critical performativity

      Cabantous, L.; Gond, J-P.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2016-02)
      In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of ‘critical performativity’, a concept designed to debate relationships between theory and practice and encourage practical interventions in organizational life. Notwithstanding its laudable ambition to stimulate discussion about engagement between CMS researchers and practitioners, we are concerned that critical performativity theory is flawed as it misreads foundational performativity authors, such as Austin and Butler, in ways that nullify their political potential, and ignores a range of other influential theories of performativity. It also overlooks the materiality of performativity. We review these limitations and then use three illustrations to sketch out a possible alternative conceptualization of performativity. This alternative approach, which builds on Butler’s and Callon’s work on performativity, recognises that performativity is about the constitution of subjects, is an inherently material and discursive construct, and happens through the political engineering of sociomaterial agencements. We argue that such an approach – a political theory of organizational performativity – is more likely to deliver on both theoretical and practical fronts than the concept of critical performativity.
    • Essai on Lacan and the `Becoming-ness' of Organizations/Selves.

      Harding, Nancy H. (Sage, 2007)
      Poststructuralist accounts of organizations understand them as flows, as verbs in process of always-becoming. Subjects who work `in' organizations are similarly always in a process of becoming. Organization and members are mutually constitutive, each enfolded within the other. The process by which each is enfolded within and constituted by the other is what is explored in this essai. Its aim is to analyse something of the becoming-ness of organizations/selves, in which the researcher-self is imbricated in this becoming-ness and must therefore be part of that which is studied. To achieve this aim I draw on Lacan's concepts: of the mirror stage, or how I am in an agonistic relationship with the other; Nachträglichkeit or the reliving of the past in the present (deferred action); and identification. I apply these concepts to an interview I, an academic, carried out with a manager, emphasizing the importance of these organizational identities in our encounter with each other. The conclusion I reach is that the organization I am `in' is at the same time `in' me: there is no inside and no outside.
    • Evidence-based management: The very idea.

      Learmonth, M.; Harding, Nancy H. (2006)
      This essay critically evaluates the recent phenomenon of `evidence-based management' in public services that is especially prominent in health care. We suggest that the current approach, broadly informed by evidence-based health care, is misguided given the deeply contested nature of `evidence' within the discipline of management studies. We argue that its growing popularity in spite of the theoretical problems it faces can be understood primarily as a function of the interests served by the universalization of certain forms of managerialist `evidence' rather than any contribution to organizational effectiveness. Indeed, in a reading informed by the work of French geographer Henri Lefebvre, we suggest that in the long term the project is likely to inhibit rather than encourage a fuller understanding of the nature of public services. We conclude with a call for forms of organizational research that the current preoccupations of the evidence-based project marginalize if not write out altogether.
    • Fear and loathing in Harrogate: or an exploration of the mutual constitution of organisation and members

      Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H. (2008)
      There have been no studies in organization research of conferences as part of the world of work. This paper describes a reflexive ethnographic study of one management conference. It finds that upon arrival at the places and spaces of the conference processes of self-making as conference attendee are set in train. Self-making subsequently takes place within processes of domination and subordination, achieved through fear, infantilization, disparagement and seduction. Reading this through the lens of Freudian-informed interpretations of the Hegelian master/slave dialectic, the paper argues that conferences are one of the means of control over academic, managerial and professional employees. Control is achieved through dialectical interactions between conference and employee.
    • Followers in leadership theory: Fiction, fantasy and illusion.

      Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H. (2016)
      This article introduces a critical approach to follower/ship studies through exploring the unarticulated but highly influential implicit academic theory of follower/ship that informs dominant paradigms of leadership. Research into follower/ship is developing apace but the field lacks a critical account. Such an absence of critical voice renders researchers unaware of the performative effect of their studies, that is, how their studies actively constitute that of which they speak. So, do studies of followers (and leaders, it follows) constitute that very actuality they are studying? Analysis of seminal papers in three major categories of leadership, leader-centric, multiple leadership and leader-centred, shows that leadership theory is underpinned by the desire for power and control over the potentially dangerous masses, now labelled ‘followers’. The etiolated perspective of the people called ‘followers’ undermines leadership theory, and we recommend the wisdom of leaving follower/ship unexplored.
    • Invoking Satan or the ethics of the employment contract.

      Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H. (2003)
      Studies of mergers of organizations focus upon the financial and economic outcomes, with little attention paid to the effect on the people working in the merging organizations. This paper reports the findings of a study of the impact on managers of an organizational merger. Rather than the cool calculations of accountants and economists and the rational application of a managerial logic, we found the impact on these managers was upon their emotions, which seemed sometimes too buffeted to allow them to continue in their work. A narrative analysis of the stories told by these managers suggested they experienced their involvement with the merging organizations as akin to a Faustian contract, whereby they had sold their souls to the organizational devil and were now reaping the costs. When we came to write this paper we found that using the usual rubrics of academic writing suppressed the sheer emotionality of their experiences. We have therefore followed the imperative of our conclusions, and written our analysis in the form of a play, based upon Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus, which allows us to use our interviewees' own words to illustrate the impact of the merger. The play is, of course, in the format of a tragedy: it has four main characters ¿ the narrator, the manager, Faustus and Mephistopheles ¿ and five acts. We use the Prologue to insert our own words, where we argue for a turn away from the 'hard' school of human resource management towards one that is ethically informed. Programme notes contain the technical details which justify our research methods. We remain totally unapologetic for intruding emotions into the rational world of academia.
    • Leadership and charisma: A desire that cannot speak its name?

      Harding, Nancy H.; Lee, Hugh; Ford, Jackie M.; Learmonth, M. (2011)
      Leadership has proved impossible to define, despite decades of research and a huge number of publications. This article explores managers’ accounts of leadership, and shows that they find it difficult to talk about the topic, offering brief definitions but very little narrative. That which was said/sayable provides insights into what was unsaid/ unsayable. Queer theory facilitates exploration of that which is difficult to talk about, and applying it to the managers’ talk allows articulation of their lay theory of leadership. This is that leaders evoke a homoerotic desire in followers such that followers are seduced into achieving organizational goals. The leader’s body, however, is absent from the scene of seduction, so organizational heteronormativity remains unchallenged. The article concludes by arguing that queer and critical leadership theorists together could turn leadership into a reverse discourse and towards a politics of pleasure at work.
    • Move over management: We are all leaders now?

      Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H. (2007)
      There is widespread debate within critical management studies (CMS) as to the possibility of introducing CMS principles and ideas into organizational life. There is similarly a critique of its potential to replace the hegemony of `mainstream' business school thinking with an alternative hegemonic practice. In this article we use a reflexive analysis of our involvement as critical thinkers within the delivery of leadership-development programmes to consider these debates and explore CMS perspectives with participants. Our initial attempts were naive, but a more nuanced understanding given by theorizing our own practices offers some ways of avoiding the substitution of one hegemony with another. Although working as critical thinkers within mainstream programmes will always be problematic, we suggest that using a dialogical approach in leadership training programmes is one way of struggling with the inherent difficulties, while introducing participants to different ways of theorizing their worlds.
    • Moving critical performativity forward

      Learmonth, M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Gond, J-P.; Cabantous, L. (2016-02)
      In this rejoinder, we draw attention to some of the possible performative effects of Spicer et  al.’s (2016) commentary and reaffirm the importance, in our eyes, of the fundamentally political and material dimensions of performativity.
    • On the Manager's Body as an Aesthetics of Control.

      Harding, Nancy H. (2003)
      Over the last decade or so, aesthetic and art theory has played an increasingly significant role in the way work and its organization has come to be understood. Bringing together the work of an international spectrum of academics, this collection contributes, in an overall more critical vein, to such emerging debates. Combining both empirical and theoretical material, each chapter re-evaluates the emerging relationship between art, aesthetics and work, exploring its potential as both a medium of critical analysis, and as a site of conflict and resistance.
    • Reading leadership through Hegel’s master/slave dialectic: towards a theory of the powerlessness of the powerful

      Harding, Nancy H. (2014-11)
      This paper develops a theory of the subjectivity of the leader through the philosophical lens of Hegel’s master/slave dialectic and its recent interpretation by the philosopher Judith Butler. This is used to analyse the working life history of a man who rose from poverty to a leadership position in a large company and eventually to running his own successful business. Hegel’s dialectic is foundational to much Western thought, but in this paper, I rashly update it by inserting a leader in between the master, whose approval the leader needs if s/he is to sustain self-hood, and the follower, who becomes a tool that the leader uses when trying to gain that elusive approval. The analysis follows the structure of Butler’s reading of the Dialectic and develops understanding of the norms that govern how leaders should act and the persons they should be. Hard work has become for leaders an ethical endeavour, but they grieve the sacrifice of leisure. They enjoy a frisson of erotic pleasure at their power over others but feel guilt as a result. They must prove their leadership skills by ensuring their followers are perfect employees but at the same time must prove their followers are poor workers who need their continued leadership. This leads to the conclusion that the leader is someone who is both powerful and powerless. This analysis is intended not to demonize leaders, but to show the harm that follows the emphasis on leadership as a desirable and necessary organizational function.
    • Social construction of management.

      Harding, Nancy H. (Routledge, 2003)
      What is management and how do the people who become managers take on a managerial identity? How does text inform the manager's identity? From cultural studies we understand that the relationship between text and reader is not passive but that each works upon the other and that text is active in forming the identity of the reader. However, analysis of management textbooks published since the 1950s reveals that textboks construct a world in which chaos is kept at bay only by strong management and in which strong management is based upon the rationality of modernity. This book exposes and analyses such claims-to-truths and theorises their arguments using the work of Butler and Foucault, the sociology of scientific knowledge, crtical legal studies, art history and queer theory. By revealing the post-modern turn in these texts,The Social Construction of Managementis both a critical and empirical study that explores the constitution of managerial identities in the age of masseducation in management. An exciting contribution to the growing body of knowledge within critical management studies, this book challenges the way we think about organizations and their management, and about management education as a whole. This is thought provoking reading for anyone studying management or working int he managerial organization
    • The expectations and aspirations of a late-career professional woman

      Atkinson, Carol; Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Jones, F. (2015-11-24)
      This article presents a powerful account of one late-career woman's lived experiences. Little is known about women who continue professional careers into their 50s and beyond. Here insights are offered into her aspirations and expectations, as she reflects upon a career fragmented by gendered caring responsibilities and the implications of ageism and sexism together with health and body for her late-career phase. The narrative enhances understanding of the intersection of age and gender in a context where masculine career norms dominate. It also offers a reflection upon the implications of these themes for late-career women and their employing organizations more generally.
    • Towards a performative theory of resistance: Senior managers and revolting subject(ivitie)s

      Harding, Nancy H.; Ford, Jackie M.; Lee, Hugh (2017)
      This paper develops a performative theory of resistance. It uses Judith Butler’s and Karen Barad’s theories of performativity to explore how resistance (to organisational strategies and policies) and resistants (those who resist such strategies and policies) co-emerge, within and through complex intra-actions of entangled discourses, materialities, affect and space/time. The paper uses empirical materials from a case study of the implementation of a talent management strategy. We analyse interviews with the senior managers charged with implementing the strategy, the influence of material, non-sentient actors, and the experiences of the researchers when carrying out the interviews. This leads to a theory that resistance and resistants emerge in moment-to-moment co-constitutive moves that may be invoked when identity or self is put in jeopardy. Resistance, we suggest, is the power (residing with resistants) to say ‘no’ to organizational requirements that would otherwise threaten to render the self abject.
    • We went looking for an organisation and could find only the metaphysics of its presence

      Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H. (2004)
      This article explores the `lifeworld theories¿ of organizations held by organizational actors, gathered from staff and managers of two `organizations¿ as they went through a process of merger. Using Henri Lefebvre¿s theories of place and space read through a postmodernist lens to interrogate the data, we discovered amongst staff theories of the organization as place, arising out of the material territory in which they worked. Amongst managers and those whom we call directors/chief executives there was a contrasting theory of organization as space, based upon a sense of an immaterial space occupied by a metaphysical organization. Rather than finding a dualistic distinction between organization and agents, we found the organization and organizational members collapsed in upon each other, with managerial identities fused with and inseparable from that of `the organization¿; chief executives requiring the existence of an impossible organization that could exist only in their minds; and non-managerial employees refusing to identify anything called `an organization¿.
    • What do we mean by performativity in organization and management studies? The uses and abuses of performativity

      Gond, J-P.; Cabantous, L.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2016-10)
      John Austin introduced the formulation “performative utterance” in his 1962 book How to do things with words. This term and the related concept of performativity have subsequently been interpreted in numerous ways by social scientists and philosophers such as Lyotard, Butler, Callon, or Barad, leading to the co-existence of several foundational perspectives on performativity. In this paper we review and evaluate critically how organization and management theory (OMT) scholars have used these perspectives, and how the power of performativity has, or has not, stimulated new theory-building. In performing a historical and critical review of performativity in OMT, our analysis reveals the uses, abuses and under-uses of the concept by OMT scholars. It also reveals the lack of both organizational conceptualizations of performativity and analysis of how performativity is organized. Ultimately our aim is to provoke a ‘performative turn’ in OMT by unleashing the power of the performativity concept to generate new and stronger organizational theories.
    • Whistle while you Work? Disney Animation, Organizational Readiness and Gendered Subjugation.

      Griffin, M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2016)
      This paper introduces the concept of ‘organizational readiness’: socio-cultural expectations about working selves that prepare young people (albeit indirectly and in complex and multi-faceted ways) for their future life in organizations. This concept emerges from an analysis of Disney animations and how they constitute expectations about working life that may influence children through their representations of work and gendered workplace roles. The paper’s exploration of Disney’s earlier animations suggests they circulated norms of gender that girls should be weak and avoid work. In contrast, its contemporary productions circulate gender norms that suggest girls should be strong and engage in paid work. In this reading, the continued circulation of earlier alongside contemporary animations may convey to young viewers a paradox: girls must and must not work; they must be both weak and strong. We thus offer new insights into the puzzle of the continued relegation of women to the side-lines in organizations; although, more optimistically, we also point to ways in which future generations of employees may forge ways of constituting forms of gendered selves as yet hardly imaginable.
    • Who is 'the middle manager'?

      Harding, Nancy H.; Lee, Hugh; Ford, Jackie M. (2014-10)
      Middle managers occupy a central position in organizational hierarchies, where they are responsible for implementing senior management plans by ensuring junior staff fulfil their roles. However, explorations of the identity of the middle manager offer contradictory insights. This article develops a theory of the identity of the middle manager using a theoretical framework offered by the philosopher Judith Butler and empirical material from focus groups of middle managers discussing their work. We use personal pronoun analysis to analyse the identity work they undertake while talking between themselves. We suggest that middle managers move between contradictory subject positions that both conform with and resist normative managerial identities, and we also illuminate how those moves are invoked. The theory we offer is that middle managers are both controlled and controllers, and resisted and resisters. We conclude that rather than being slotted into organizational hierarchies, middle managers constitute those hierarchies.