Sub-theme 57: Language and Leadership: Discursive Variations in Ways of Leading

Doris Schedlitzki
University of the West of England, UK
Peter Case
Bristol Business School, the University of the West of England, UK
David Knights
Lancaster University & Open University, UK

Call for Papers

For the last century, the concept of 'leadership' has been predominantly developed and theorised within the English language, based on Western traditions of research and Anglo-centric interpretations of the concept (Jepson, 2010). Within this dominant paradigm, the conceptualisation of leadership has been carefully, but not unproblematically, differentiated from that of management. This assumption of distinctiveness is deeply embedded within the English language and English-speaking scholarly communities. It is diffused among, or perhaps rather forced upon, all those scholars who take part in international scholarly debates and has heavily informed the development of leadership and management knowledge. Other culturally situated notions have remained comparatively silent.

However, there is a growing criticism of the limitations of this Anglo-centric view (Jepson, 2009; Guthey and Jackson, 2011), as research into leadership in non-Western countries (Turnbull et al., 2011) and within different languages (Jepson, 2009, 2010) has developed. In addition, discursive approaches to leadership have also found a stronger foothold within the field and significantly developed our theoretical understanding of the discursively constructed and performative nature of leadership and its impact on practice (Fairhurst, 2011; Ford et al., 2008). These contributions have particularly served to highlight issues of power, gender and diversity in current leadership discourses and challenge the dominant assumptions on the conceptual relationship between leadership and management.

This sub-theme is centred on rethinking and 'de-naturalizing' the taken-for-granted assumption that leadership and management are separate conceptual domains and practices. This conceptual differentiation is viewed as natural and necessary for analytical and practical purposes within Anglo-American organisations and wider society and fundamentally grounded in the particularities of such English language terms as 'leader', 'leadership', 'manager', 'management', reflecting a decidedly ethnocentric understanding of leadership and management practices. This sub-theme aims to challenge this dominance and give voice to other languages and discourses. We encourage contributions that explore representations and conceptualisations of ways of leading, guiding, governing, conducting and directing organisations as these are understood and enacted through languages, discourses and 'forms of life' other than English. This will involve examining the political, historical and cultural roots of 'leadership' within other languages as well as critically examining the English language as a business and scholarly lingua franca.

Indicative themes that might be explored in conceptual or empirical papers include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of leadership and/or management in different linguistic contexts
  • Discursive studies of leadership and/or management
  • Critical reviews of the linguistic relationship between leadership and management
  • Language as a cultural voice: lessons for leadership and management?
  • The role of the English language as the business and/or scholarly lingua franca: implications for leadership practice and development
  • Exploring ways of leading, directing, guiding, governing, conducting and organising through language and discourse
  • Challenging the leadership/management divide and giving voice to other culturally meaningful ways of organising
  • Examining the role of power, gender and diversity within languages and discourses of 'leadership'
  • Languages and discourses of masculinity in leadership and management (e.g. heroic and military metaphors)



Fairhurst, Gail T. (2011): The Power of Framing: Creating the Language of Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Ford, Jackie, Nancy Harding & Mark Learmonth (2008): Leadership as Identity. Palgrave Macmillan.
Guthey, Eric & Brad Jackson (2011): 'Cross-cultural Leadership Revisited.' In: Alan Bryman, David L. Collinson, Brad Jackson, Mary Uhl-Bien & Keith Grint (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Leadership. London: SAGE Publications, pp. 165–178.
Jepson, Doris [now Schedlitzki] (2009): 'Studying leadership at cross-country level: A critical analysis.' Leadership, 5 (1), pp. 61–80.
Jepson, Doris [now Schedlitzki] (2010): 'The importance of national language as a level of discourse within individuals' theorising of leadership – A qualitative study of German and English employees.' Leadership, 6 (4), pp. 425–445.
Turnbull, Sharon, Peter Case, Gareth Edwards, Doris Jepson & Peter Simpson (2011): Worldly Leadership. London: Palgrave.


Doris Schedlitzki is Associate Professor in Organisational Leadership at University of the West of England, UK. Her research explores the role of national language within cultural leadership studies, leadership discourses, leadership identities. Doris has presented papers at EGOS Colloquia in Berlin (2005) and Helsinki (2012).
Peter Case is Professor of Organization Studies at Bristol Business School, UK, and Professor of Management and Organization Studies at James Cook University, Australia. His research interests encompass leadership ethics, leadership discourses and corporate social and environmental responsibility. Peter has been a member of EGOS since 2009 and co-convened sub-theme 18 at the EGOS Colloquium 2012 in Helsinki.
David Knights is Professor of Organisation Studies at Lancaster University and at the Open University, UK, and has a broad interest in the fields of leadership, management and gender studies. David has been a member of EGOS almost since its formation and has co-convened several sub-themes.