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SIG Session [clear filter]
Wednesday, August 5

13:30 CEST

Constructing and De-Constructing Leadership Identities

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

14:00 CEST

The Embedded Algedonics of Society

The embedded Algedonics of Society suggest a conceptual model for the study of social systems based on latter finding from the field of neurosciences (Kahneman et al) and the works from Niklas Luhmann.

Kahneman et al argue that the brain processes in a fast and a slow processing mode. Cognition processes information slowly in a complex way of meaning creation and sense making. The fast system is based on the algedonics of pleasure and pain.

Luhmann argues that for social systems we see the divide of politics and economy along the very sanction mechanisms of positive reward in the economy and negative reward in politics. The economy demands investment for yields, politics demand loyalty to regulations based on the monopoly of physical power. In this perspective the economy and politics resemble the fast algedonics of a fast system. All other societal sub systems like religion, science, arts and many more seem to resemble the slow system of meaning creation and sense making. In this we may want to refer to the slow processing system of society as culture.

There are two major implications. First, economy shall be based on positive sanction mechanisms. If this is not the case like in plan economy, socialism and capitalism as we have seen it in the past, it fails. Politics shall be based on negative sanction mechanisms. If political favour is based on positive sanction, like in democratism, the political systems is converted in a political actor which has a tendency for bankruptcy. Second, cultural studies have a chance to revise societal meaning creation and sense making and challenge the criteria and mechanisms of the ruling cultural systems to introduce, following Garry Marcus, functional sufficiency in contrast to truth, believe, aesthetics and others. Critical narrative inquiry then opens access for cultural exploration and impact evaluation.

Key words: Social Systems, culture, algedonics, critical narrative inquiry, impact evaluation


Kahneman, D. (1973). Attention and effort. Prentice-Hall.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow (1st ed.). Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., & Tversky, A. (Eds.). (1982). Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Luhmann, N. (1984). Social Systems. (J. Bednarz & D. Baecker, Trans.) (Ed. 1996). Stanford, Calif: Stanford Univ Pr.

Marcus, G. (2008). Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind (Ed. 2009). Faber & Faber, London.


Presenter / Artist
avatar for Louis Klein

Louis Klein

SIG Chair: Organizational Transformation and Social Change, louis.klein@segroup.de
Vice President Conferences (2015), International Society for the Systems Sciences SIG Chair:    Systems Applications in Business and Industry SIG Chair:    Organizational Transformation and Social ChangeLouis Klein is an internationally recognized expert in the field of systemic... Read More →

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

14:30 CEST

Allegories of Storytelling: The Workings of Story Production in Organizational Sense Making Processes
Presenter / Artist

Asbjørn Molly

Aalborg University
ISSS Student

Wednesday August 5, 2015 14:30 - 15:00 CEST
Reindeer Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany