The performativity of leadership talk

Simpson, Barbara and Buchan, Linda and Sillince, John (2018) The performativity of leadership talk. Leadership, 14 (6). pp. 644-661. ISSN 1742-7169 (

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Leadership-as-practice holds great promise for the re-theorization of leadership in ways that reflect the dynamics of ongoing practice in the day-to-day realities of organizing. However, in order to progress this agenda there is an urgent need to develop more dynamic theories and complementary methodologies that are better able to engage with the continuities of leadership practice. This paper responds to this need firstly by teasing out the conceptual implications of the practices/practice duality, differentiating between leadership as a set of practices, and leadership in the flow of practice. Then, drawing theoretical insights from Austin and Mead, the performative effects of turning points in the flow of ordinary conversation are examined in the context of the leadership talk of a senior management team. The paper makes contributions to both theory and methodology, which are elaborated empirically to show how different types of talk relate to different phases of leadership practice.