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Who is responsible for leadership communication?: Co-constructing simplistic notions of leaders and followers
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Media and Communication Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6645-2980
2015 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

During the past decade, communicative lenses to the study of leadership have emerged, in which researchers focus on the socially co-constructed, relational and discursive aspects of leadership (Fairhurst, 2007; Fairhurst & Connaughton, 2014; Kramer & Crespy, 2011). Leadership, in this tradition is conceived to be a relational process (Fairhurst & Uhl-Bien, 2012) which is constructed in organizational, social and temporal contexts (Tourish, 2014), and shaped by structures, cultures, and processes as well as by individual actors (Barge and Fairhurst, 2008; Fairhurst and Grant, 2010, Johansson, 2003). More recently, the distribution of agency between leadership actors have been called into question (Clifton, 2012) and the leader-centrism implying that only leaders are responsible for agency in leadership has been criticized (Tourish, 2014). However, we currently lack research focusing on co-workers’ responsibility in the social construction of leadership. The question of “who is responsible for leadership communication” is related to recent calls for research focusing on empowering leadership communication and co-workers’ communication (Heide & Simonsson, 2011; Ruck & Welch, 2012; Welch, 2011). Empirical work illustrating leadership as a communicative accomplishment with organizing properties, highlight the interdependency of leadership actors (Larsson & Lundholm, 2013). Against this background, the purpose of this study is broadly to analyze how leadership actors, leaders and co-workers, communicatively co-construct leadership agency, and particularly how responsibility emerges in leadership communication.

            The study employs a discursive leadership lens (Fairhurst, 2007), and concentrates on a video-recorded meeting in a Swedish multinational organization.  In this team meeting, a leader and 19 co-workers participated. The meeting was a “traditional” team meeting held every second week for the purpose of communicating on current events and information concerning the team and the organization at large. The leader recently participated in a leadership training provided by the company with the aim of improving leader communication abilities, and the meeting was recorded in order to study the leaders’ communication.

The meeting was analyzed by discourse analysis (Fairhurst & Putnam, 2014), which lends itself to the study of the organizing potential of discourse patterns. Thus, this method is relevant to study how leadership agency and responsibility was constructed and emerged during the meeting.

Findings illustrated that responsibility for communication was effectively rejected by the co-workers through their silence, which was an important feature during the meeting. Although the leader on several occasions tried to ask questions and involve the co-workers in the discussions, hardly anyone spoke up. Thus, it is concluded that the co-workers in this meeting contributed to prevent dialogue and a more evenly distributed agency in leadership. This case illustrated traditional and “simplistic” notions of leaders and followers, to be co-constructed by above all the co-workers. Silence, as a form of followership thus contributed to the avoidance of responsibility by co-workers themselves (cf. Grint, 2010).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
Keywords [en]
Leadership communication, discursive leadership, responsibility, dialogue, silence
National Category
Communication Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-37716OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-37716DiVA, id: diva2:1371107
Conference
ICA Regional Conference, Responsible Communication and Governance, 11-13 October, 2015, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark
Available from: 2019-11-19 Created: 2019-11-19 Last updated: 2019-11-19Bibliographically approved

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