Discursive process of leadership: a leadership dialogue and Bakhtinian approach to leadership learning

Stephen Gibbs, Kae Reynolds

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Authenticity is a concept within leadership theory that is equally saturated in positivistic thought as are the majority of studies published (Ford & Harding, 2011). In response, this study takes a critical approach to leadership learning. We reject the monological, linear mainstream conceptualisations of one true leadership process, opting for a pluralistic leadership concept manifested in discursive, co-creative and ongoing dialogue. This fluid and boundaryless notion concerns itself not only with language, but with meaningful relationships in leadership. Drawing on Bakhtinian dialogical imagination (Bakhtin, 1981), we build on fledgling theoretical enquiry into dialogue and position dialogical leadership in the realm of relationality. By clinging to the coherency that dialectical orthodoxy maintains, we argue, unsustainable action persists. This study deliberately departs from category usage, allowing new intersubjective patterns to emerge from long utterances, and liberating a non-essentialised leadership to surface from the rigidity of the dominant dialectic. This departure from debate amongst legitimised leadership ‘beings’ and ‘knowings’ towards dialogical leadership exposes meaning through the long conversation and views loose patterns of utterances through their intertextual relationship and contextual meaning. Future leadership development may choose to recognise this fluid engagement as a ‘more authentic’ representation, further dislodging dominant monological orthodoxies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventDeveloping Leadership Capacity Conference 2018: Innovation and Creativity in Leadership Learning, Development and Education - University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jul 201813 Jul 2018


ConferenceDeveloping Leadership Capacity Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleDLCC 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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