Finding your leadership voice through poetry: Poetic engagement for ethical leadership development

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Credibility and authenticity have become central concepts in contemporary leadership perspectives, yet the shape of ethical leadership development for practice – whether through ethical skills development or ethical behavioural interventions – remains somewhat enigmatic (Buskirk et al. 2015). Kouzes and Posner (2012) proposed that in order to ‘model the way’ for leadership credibility individuals must find their leader voice. Numerous other scholars have turned to reflexive practice in leadership development toward activating moral sensitivity (Hedberg, 2017; Hibbert and Cunliffe, 2015; Waddock and Werhane, 2010). Whilst reflective practice is a useful tool for professional development, the process of reflection can get stuck in the rational-cognitive realm, and thus miss out on accessing deeper emotional and creative levels of experience. Some have argued that using poetry as a foundation for reflection in organisational contexts can help spark creative problem-solving and unpack complexity (Morgan, 2016; Armitage , 2015). Others have argued that poetic engagement accesses cognitive processes of more emotional depth. Producing poetry opens up a unique space for exploring identity and values, gives voice to feelings, perceptions and genuine concerns, and fosters human connection (Armitage, 2015) which has the potential to support moral reasoning and moral action. In order to facilitate the enhancement of leader authenticity and credibility, this PDW proposes to facilitate a deeper exploration of leader identity and values and tap into creative-emotional thinking toward discovering and developing leader voice through poetic engagement: both producing and reflecting on poetry in organisational and leadership contexts.


ConferenceBritish Academy of Management 2020 Conference in the Cloud
Abbreviated titleBAM2020
Internet address


  • Leadership
  • poetry
  • arts-based inquiry
  • Ethics
  • Leadership development
  • reflective practice


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