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Wednesday, August 5 • 13:30 - 14:00
Constructing and De-Constructing Leadership Identities

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In this paper we will explore the following research questions: What is at stake when a group of leaders from different organizations construct and reconstruct their identity as leaders through narrative interviews about their challenges as leaders? How do these discursive constructions close down or open up for new perspectives and possibilities for change in their relationships, positions and daily practice as leaders? And how might these constructions contribute to or obstruct organizational change and development? These research questions will be examined through qualitative data from digital video recordings of four narrative interviews with use of outsider witnessing, which formed part of an action learning project. Our research is based on the paradigm of social constructionism and draws upon the following theoretical and analytical approaches: Positioning theory, discursive psychology and discourse analysis, deconstruction, narratives and storytelling in organizations, and relational approaches to leadership.  In the analysis of the construction of leadership identities we will focus on narratives, polyphony, discourses, and metaphors in the overall processes of relating, communicating and wayfinding as leaders in complex systems and ever shifting social and organizational contexts. Our main hypothesis is that the social and discursive construction of leadership identities by use of wordings, metaphors, and narratives, has a significant importance for opening up and closing down possibilities for development, learning and change in organizations. We will analyze narrative constructions of leadership identities and relate these to the daily practice in organizational contexts We argue that communicative, relational and narrative skills are important for leaders to construct and co-construct their identity as leaders and to co-create nurturing relationships at different levels within and outside the organization. After all, we consider these skills as crucial for the success of organizational development.

Our data derives from an action learning project 2010-2012: “Challenges in Leadership Communication”. The project was based on two dialogue conferences with the purpose of facilitating processes of reflection, learning, change and development through dialogical constructions and reconstructions of discourses, positions and organizational narratives.

The participants consisted of researchers and a group of leaders from different private and public organizations in Northern Jutland, Denmark During the dialogue conferences qualitative data was co-created through interviews and dialogues and documented by video recordings, photographs and post-it notes. In addition, participants and researches elaborated written evaluations and reflections after each conference. The combination of different types of data and mixed methods used in this project gave the advantage of both observing the processes and, at the same time, of having access to the participant’s reflections and evaluations.

A part of the research project consisted of using the method of narrative inquiry and outsider witnessing combined with follow-up-dialogues between researchers and leaders (co-researchers). Five leaders participated in this part of the project. Each narrative interview and outsider witness process took approximately 30 minutes. In this paper we explore six hours of qualitative data to examine our research question concerning the social construction of leadership identities. 


Wednesday August 5, 2015 13:30 - 14:00 CEST
Reindeer Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

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