• 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.
    • Blending Existentialist and Constructionist Approaches in Leadership Studies: An Exploratory Account

      Lawler, John A.; Ford, Jackie M. (2007)
      This paper aims to explore the contribution of combined social constructionist and existential perspectives to the understanding of leadership and calls for a reconsideration of the objectivist, functionalist assumptions and approaches to leadership. It aims to argue the value of incorporating the subjective perspective through two related approaches
    • Discourses of entrepreneurial leadership: exposing myths and exploring new approaches

      Dean, Hannah; Ford, Jackie M. (2017)
      This article explores gender and entrepreneurial leadership, notably the meanings female entrepreneurs ascribe to notions of entrepreneurial leadership. Drawing from interviews with female business owners, the article questions the dominant hegemonic masculine entrepreneurial leadership model as well as that reportedly associated with women. Research findings illuminate the fluidity and variability of the entrepreneurial leadership construct. Our feminist poststructural lens and critical leadership stance adds new insight into the multiple subjectivities of entrepreneurs and surfaces contradiction and tension that shape the very sense of their entrepreneurial selves. By questioning accepted knowledge, this research offers new perspectives on the multiple realities of entrepreneurial leadership, which should be heeded by policy makers, academics and practitioners alike.
    • 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.
    • The social construction of leadership studies: representations of rigour and relevance in textbooks

      Carroll, B.; Firth, J.; Ford, Jackie M.; Taylor, S. (2018-04-01)
      Considerations of rigour and relevance rarely acknowledge students, learning, or the textbooks many of the academic community use to frame education. Here we explore the construction of meaning around rigour and relevance in four leadership studies textbooks – the two most globally popular leadership textbooks and two recent additions to the field – to explore how these ideas are represented. We read the four texts narratively for structure, purpose, style, and application. We further embed the analysis by considering the cultural positioning of the textbook-as-genre within leadership studies as a field more generally. This exploration of the textbook raises critical questions about rigour, relevance and the relationship constructed between them. From this, we argue for a re-commitment to the genuine ‘text-book’ written to engage students in understanding leadership as a continuing conversation between practices, theories, and contexts, rather than as a repository of rigorous and/or relevant content that lays claim to represent an objective science of leadership studies.
    • 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¿.
    • 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.
    • Who is it That Would Make Business Schools More Critical? Critical Reflections on Critical Management Studies

      Ford, Jackie M.; Harding, Nancy H.; Learmonth, M. (2010)
      We suggest in this paper that whilst exploring how to make business schools more critical we must also turn a critical and reflexive lens upon ourselves, critical management thinkers. Our endeavour is outlined here as a ‘reflexive journey’ in which we turn upon ourselves, academics who identify as ‘critical’ thinkers, the theories we use to analyse others. Our focus is upon critical management education. We use three vignettes drawn from our previous research. One is of graduands from the postgraduate programmes on which two of us teach, the second an analysis of knowledge transfer programmes in which we have participated, and the third a study of the construction of academic identities. The first study shows the academic teacher may become an internalized, judgemental gaze, the second that what we see as a critical approach may be construed by our students as another ‘truth’ that fails to encompass the complexities of organizations and management, and the third encourages us to ask some questions about our own positions. This causes us to ask some uncomfortable questions about our own positions as critical management scholars and the ways in which we conceptualize business schools and our colleagues who work in them.