PDW 08: Analysing Talk-in-Interaction in Organizational and Leadership Studies

Magnus Larsson
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Stephanie Schnurr
University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Jonathan Clifton
University of Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis, France

Call for Applications


Organizational scholars are beginning to take the linguistic turn more seriously and are increasingly prone to engage in fine-grained analysis of naturally-occurring interaction. For example, The Montreal School (Cooren, 2015) draws on an understanding of organization as constituted in interaction and some research into strategy as practice examines mundane workplace practices through the analysis of transcripts of talk (e.g., Samra-Fredericks, 2003). More specifically, within the field of leadership, the publication of Gail Fairhurst’s seminal work on discursive leadership in 2007 (Discursive Leadership: In Conversation with Leadership Psychology) has brought discursive approaches to leadership into the limelight. Discursive leadership’s ontological roots lie in social constructionism and it considers both how leadership as an organizing and influencing process is achieved and how leader and follower identities are accomplished in interaction.
In order to do this, researchers base their investigation around the fine-grained analysis of transcripts of naturally-occurring interaction which include, inter alia, transcripts of meetings, speeches, appraisal interviews, computer mediated communication, and interviews with ‘leaders’ (Van De Mieroop & Schnurr, 2014; Baxter ,2012). To try to catch the doing of leadership in flight in naturally-occurring environments, researchers use a variety of methods and approaches such as: conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, actor network theory, communicative constitution of organization (CCO), sociolinguistics, narrative analysis, discursive psychology, and membership categorization analysis (Schnurr, 2009; Holmes et al., 2011; Clifton, 2012; 2015; Larsson & Lundholm, 2013; Wodak et al., 2011; Svennevig, 2008). Whilst these methodologies have varying constraints and offer varying possibilities, the common thread running through them is the fine-grained analysis of the language of leadership as in situ practice.
Such an approach to leadership therefore:

  • offers a way of providing empirical evidence to support existing theories of leadership;

  • challenges essentialist and a priori theories of leader identity that equate leader with hierarchic position;

  • considers the emergence of leader (and follower) identity as an interactional accomplishment;

  • offers a way of directly exploring leadership as a relational phenomenon (cf. Fairhurst, 2007);

  • avoids decontextualizing leadership by focusing on situated interaction, thus inherently attending to a variety of contexts, including the often forgotten context of work itself;

  • complements quantitative approaches to leadership;

  • complements psychologically oriented perspectives, that focus on skills and individual capacities, by exploring when and how such individual resources might be made useful in interaction (cf. Samra-Fredericks, 2003);

  • offers a way into examining emic data-driven orientations to leadership and leader identity.

Whilst over recent years, linguists have begun to provide a substantial body of research into discursive leadership (Holmes et al., 2011; Choi & Schnurr, 2014; Schnurr, 2009; Clifton, 2006, 2012; Baxter, 2010) this research has had difficulty in crossing interdisciplinary boundaries and is relatively unknown to researchers working in the field of organizational studies. For instance, the recent interest in the so-called “practice perspective” rarely engages with actual interaction, and this stream of research rarely cites studies of interaction.
Yet, on the other hand, although still rare, there is a growing number of studies of actual interaction in organizational and leadership research. More psychological and organizationally oriented researchers are beginning to show a growing interest in such studies and are using fine-grained analyses of naturally-occurring talk in their work (Larsson & Lundholm, 2010; 2013, Llewellyn & Hindmarsh, 2010).


The purpose of this pre-Colloquium Development Workshop (PDW) is therefore to encourage the cross-fertilization of ideas from linguistics and organizational studies. Using the case of discursive leadership, this workshop seeks to introduce organizational researchers who are interested in using transcripts of naturally-occurring interaction as data, yet who do not have a background in linguistics, to do fine-grained linguistic analyses.
In promoting dialogue between researchers across disciplines, we hope not only to demonstrate the benefits of taking a discursive approach to organization and leadership studies, but also to start a productive dialogue between linguists and leadership/organizational researchers. We stress that whilst using the case of leadership as a basis for discussion, the methodological assumptions and analytical techniques that we intend to present are equally valid for other areas of organizational studies which take the linguistic turn seriously. We therefore encourage participation from scholars whose focal interest is not necessarily leadership.

Structure and Content

This PDW will take the form of a data session based on the participants’ own data, but will also include:

  • a presentation and discussion of what discursive approaches to leadership offer to organizational research;

  • critical reflection on the advantages and disadvantages of fine-grained analysis of transcripts of naturally-occurring talk;

  • an introduction to the more technical aspects of doing fine-grained linguistic analysis, such as:

how to select data for transcription,
the principles of transcription and how to transcribe,
how to do fine-grained linguistic analyse of transcriptions,
how to avoid impressionistic researcher-driven description of the data and how to analyse the data from an emic data-driven perspective,
how to relate fine-grained analysis of interaction to wider concepts of leadership and leader (and follower) identity and to organizational studies more generally.


Intended Audience

This PDW is designed primarily for PhD students and early career scholars who have an interest in the discursive analysis of organizational phenomena on the micro level of interaction. But, it is also open to more experienced researchers who have similar research interests. Further, although we take leadership as the primary example, we especially invite researchers in fields such as institutional theory, practice, identity, power and resistance, and other fields where studies of interaction constitute a relatively new analytical approach. Finally, we expect participants to bring some data in the form of transcripts of live interaction. The discussion of this data will form an essential part of the workshop.
Therefore we ask you to submit – via the EGOS website! – a single document of application (.doc, .docx or .pdf file) that includes:

  • your contact details, i.e., title, name, address (postal address, phone & email), and affiliation;

  • a brief description of what you hope to gain from the workshop and why you would like to attend;

  • a brief description of empirical work that you are working on, including transcripts;

  • if applicable, a draft paper/analyses that you would like to discuss.



  • Baxter, J. (2010): The Language of Female Leadership. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Baxter, J. (2012): “Women of the corporation: A sociolinguistic perspective of senior women’s leadership language in the UK.” Journal of Sociolinguistics, 16 (1), 81–107.

  • Choi, S., & Schnurr, S. (2014): “Exploring distributed leadership: Solving disagreements and negotiating consensus in a ‘leaderless’ team.” Discourse Studies, 16 (1), 3–24.

  • Clifton, J. (2006): “A conversation analytical approach to business communication.” Journal of Business Communication, 43 (3), 202–219.

  • Clifton, J. (2012): “A Discursive Approach to Leadership Doing Assessments and Managing Organizational Meanings.” Journal of Business Communication, 49 (2), 148–168.

  • Clifton, J. (2015): Leaders as ventriloquists. Leader identity and influencing the communicative construction of the organisation. Leadership, first published online, May 21, 2015, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1742715015584695

  • Cooren, F. (2015): Organizational Discourse. Communication and Constitution. Cambridge: Polity Press.

  • Holmes, J., Marra, M., & Vine, B. (2011): Leadership, Discourse, and Ethnicity. Cambridge: CUP.

  • Larsson, M., & Lundholm, S.E. (2010): “Leadership as Work-embedded Influence: A Micro-discursive Analysis of an Everyday Interaction in a Bank.” Leadership, 6 (2), 159–184.

  • Larsson, M., & Lundholm, S.E. (2013): “Talking work in a bank: A study of organizing properties of leadership in work interactions.” Human Relations, 66 (8), 1101–1129.

  • Llewellyn, N., & Hindmarsh, J. (2010): Organisation, Interaction and Practice. Studies of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Samra‐Fredericks, D. (2003): “Strategizing as Lived Experience and Strategists’ Everyday Efforts to Shape Strategic Direction.” Journal of Management Studies, 40 (1), 41–174.

  • Schnurr, S. (2009): Leadership Discourse at Work: Interactions of Humour, Gender and Workplace Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Svennevig, J. (2008): “Exploring Leadership Conversations.” Management Communication Quarterly, 21 (4), 529–536.

  • Van De Mieroop, D., & Schnurr, S. (2014): “Negotiating meaning and co-constructing institutionalisable answers: Leadership through gate-keeping in performance appraisal interviews.” Journal of Pragmatics, 67, 1–16.

  • Wodak, R., Kwon, W., & Clarke, I. (2011): “‘Getting people on board’. Discursive leadership for consensus in teams.” Discourse & Society, 22 (5), 592–644.


Magnus Larsson is Associate Professor at the Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His research has focused identity processes and the practice of leadership, with interview studies, observations and micro analyses of recorded interaction. Recently, he has engaged in an externally funded project on the organizational effects of leadership development in the public sector in Denmark.
Stephanie Schnurr is Associate Professor at the Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, UK. Her main research interests are professional and medical communication. She is particularly interested in leadership, and the crucial role that communication plays in leadership performance. Stephanie has researched and published widely on various aspects of leadership discourse, gender, the multiple functions and strategic uses of humour, politeness and impoliteness, identity construction, the role of culture, decision making and advice giving, and other aspects of workplace discourse in a range of professional and medical contexts.
Jonathan Clifton is a Senior Lecturer in Business Communication at the University of Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis, France. His research interests focus on discursive leadership, professional identity construction, workplace interaction, gender, race and ethnicity.