Sub-theme 09: (SWG) Leadership in Art, Design and Organization

Eila Szendy-El Kurdi
Essec Business School, France
Pierre Guillet de Monthoux
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Junko Takagi
ESSEC Business School, France

Call for Papers


In colloquial language leadership is synonymous with reimagining, rethinking and reshaping a dissatisfactory organizational present to create a desired future. It broadly signifies persons, their actions, and the impact of these actions in business, politics, the arts, or academia. Not surprisingly leadership is much solicited in unsettled times, carrying with it the hopes of new orientations.

We contend that it is the search for originality through reimagining, rethinking and reshaping that connects leadership to art, design and organization. Paying particular attention to this link may help to create an understanding of leadership that includes outcomes and people, but also opens a path towards seeing it as a process.

While there is an abundance of business literature on the "(A)rt of leadership" , few go beyond formulating heuristics. We contend that art can inform leadership studies through art metaphors used to describe the work of leadership, for example the synoptic setting of an orchestra and its conductor; by focusing on embodiment, rhythm, and rhetoric between artists and ensembles; and considering broadly the artistry of leadership in systematically referring to the material, cultural, and lingual organizational environment. The study and use of artistic practices and metaphors have led leadership educators to draw on arts-based exercises, such as choreography, conducting, and acting to develop leadership skills (e.g. Barry & Meisiek, 2010).

Design has equally inspired leadership thought. Texts on reflective practice, effectuation, and designing organizations bear witness to ideas that see leaders as designers. The field developed when designers redefined their role in organizations and went beyond making products and services to work on developing new ways of working, connecting, and envisioning the world. Design leadership understands design processes as a transformative force in business and society. This research moves design from an artifact to a process (e.g. Boyer et al., 2010).

Art and design as forms of expressing values and as means of communication may be considered precursors for the process of leadership. We can consider how art and design produce new forms to signify – and experience – leadership, through “producing imagination” (Ricœur, 1981). The subjectivity that is inherent in artistic endeavors may allow us to reflect on the subjectivity that is also an essential element of leadership.

The time is propitious for developing scholarship to understand the interaction of personal and collective values, the association of subjectivity and objectivity in order to understand leadership processes. Can art, design and organization help us re-think and understand leadership as a process and action? How can we enter new fields of organizational scholarship by reformulating leadership in terms of "free will", creation, duration, novelty? What can we say about leadership if we consider it as a flow, a movement? What are the leadership trends of the information age?

We hope that you will join us to explore how art, design and organization come together around the topic of leadership in the service of reimagining, rethinking and reshaping.

Possible themes are (but are not restricted to):

  • Embodied Leadership
  • Leadership and creativity
  • Diversity and leadership
  • Leadership fashions and fads
  • The leader’s role as artist or designer
  • Arts or design-based leadership training
  • Leadership in design organizations or the art world
  • Leadership, discourse and narratives
  • Art and design metaphors of leadership
  • Leadership as improvisation
  • Imagination and leadership
  • Design leadership



Barry, Daved & Stefan Meisiek (2010): 'The art of leadership and its fine art shadow.' Leadership, 6 (3), pp. 331–349.
Bergson, Henri (1992 [1946]): The Creative Mind. New York: The Citadel Press (translation of La Pensée et le mouvant).
Boyer, Bryan, W. Justin Cook & Marco Steinberg (2010): Recipes for Systemic Change. Helsinki Design Lab,
Ladkin, Donna (2008): 'Leading beautifully: How mastery, congruence and purpose create the aesthetic of embodied leadership practice.' The Leadership Quarterly, 19 (1), pp. 31–41.
Whitehead, Alfred N. (1929): Process and Reality. New York: Macmillan.


Eila Szendy-El Kurdi is Associate Researcher at Essec, Chair of Leadership and Diversity, Paris, France. She holds her PhD in Organization Studies from CNAM and ESSEC Business School. Her research interests include experiential learning and art-based perspectives to re-think action and organization processes.
Pierre Guillet de Monthoux 
Junko Takagi is Professor in the Management Department at ESSEC Business School, France, and holds the Chair of Leadership and Diversity. She received her PhD in Sociology from Stanford University, USA. Her current research interests include multicultural identities, women on corporate boards, leadership training and experiential learning.