The leader-poet: ethical growth through reflexive poetic engagement

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The pursuit of personal growth has been widely considered a desirable process in leadership development. However, the capacity to improve ethical engagement remains enigmatic. Launching from Bendell and Little’s (2015) conceptualization of critical leadership studies and Edwards, Elliot, Iszatt-White, and Schledlitzki’s (2015) call for creative techniques, this paper assumes that rational, behavioural, knowledge and skills-based approaches to enhancing leadership capacity may fail to access deeper emotional experiences that can better facilitate profound inner transformation (van Buskirk, London, & Plump, 2015). We propose that poetry and dialogue can be employed as tools for productive and reproductive reflection, as well as for research in developing ethical leadership capacity. Building on an interdisciplinary approach of poetic inquiry (McCulliss, 2013) and reflexivity (Cunliffe, 2009; Hibbert & Cunliffe, 2013) we present a phenomenological exploration of leadership reflexive learning through the production and narration of poetry. This study aims to contribute novel insight about ethical leadership learning that extends beyond traditional, rational approaches and taps into the emotional, spiritual, aesthetic and social process of personal transformation. Keywords: poetry, leader development, ethical development, poetic
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2018
EventThe Poetics of Leadership: Creativity, Art and Story in Enabling Meaningful Change - University of Cumbria, Ambleside, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Sept 20188 Sept 2018


ConferenceThe Poetics of Leadership
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • leadership
  • reflexivity
  • ethics
  • poetry


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