The Language of Leadership Narratives: A Social Practice Perspective, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Language of Leadership Narratives

A Social Practice Perspective, 1st Edition

By Jonathan Clifton, Stephanie Schnurr, Dorien Van De Mieroop


232 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Fascination with leadership and its relation to world events seems to be ever growing and leadership narratives are a key element in which leader identities are constructed. Contemporary research into leadership tends to recycle the same old myths of the heroic white male leader. By looking at stories told by leaders in Australasia, Asia, North America, the Middle East and Africa, this book explores different aspects of leadership narratives.

The Language of Leadership Narratives brings linguistics and leadership research together, showcasing different analytical and methodological approaches and enabling a more critical approach. Each chapter focuses on a specific area of leadership research from dark leadership to gendered leadership. This book introduces the advantages of analysing leadership narratives as social practice and discusses some of the main themes in contemporary leadership research.

This volume is key reading for scholars and students of linguistics, communication studies and business studies, and for those working in business and intercultural communication in the workplace.


This engaging book offers a refreshingly different social practice approach to the analysis of leadership narratives. Drawing on sources ranging from online celebrity interviews to workplace interactions and research interviews, the strengths of the consistently interdisciplinary approach are evident in the stimulating contribution the book makes to current theory in many areas. The illuminating analyses draw on a wide variety of approaches including CA, CDA and positioning theory. This book will prove invaluable to students of discourse analysis, humour, and media studies, as well as to leadership and narrative scholars of course.

Janet Holmes, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

With this delightful book, the authors have achieved exactly what they set out to do: bridge a critical gap between leadership researchers interested in discursive approaches to leadership and linguists, who are interested in studying leadership. This no ordinary bridge, however. The authors have created an elegantly designed, skilfully constructed link that will be a genuine pleasure to cross from whichever side you travel. I look forward to observing the impact that this book will have on richer understandings of leadership.

Brad Jackson, Griffith University, Australia

Covering an impressive range of perspectives and aspects with considerable analytical depth, this volume constitutes a significant and strong contribution to the currently emerging understanding of leadership as something constructed, established and accomplished in social interaction.

Magnus Larsson, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Table of Contents

List of figures


  1. Introducing leadership narratives
  2. A social practice approach to narratives. Showcasing a positioning analysis of a canonical leadership story
  3. Beyond the canonical narrative. Exploring different genres of narratives from a discourse analytical perspective
  4. Filling the empty signifier of leadership through framing vignettes of workplace interaction as stories of leadership
  5. Exploring the dark side of leadership stories
  6. Constructing authentic leader identities through humorous anecdotes in everyday workplace encounters
  7. Challenging hegemonic notions of leadership through stories about leadership and gender
  8. Conclusions. Leadership narratives as social practice. A different way of approaching leadership





About the Authors

Jonathan Clifton is an Associate Professor at the Université Polytechnique des Hauts-de-France and a member of the Groupe d'Études et de Recherche Interdisciplinaire en Information et Communication (Geriico) at Lille University, France.

Stephanie Schnurr is an Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. She is the author of Leadership Discourse at Work (Palgrave, 2009), Exploring Professional Communication (Routledge, 2013), and Language and Culture at Work (with Olga Zayts, Routledge, 2017).

Dorien Van De Mieroop is an Associate Professor at KU Leuven, Belgium. She published more than 30 articles in international peer-reviewed journals, authored a book with Jonathan Clifton (Master Narratives, Identities, and the Stories of Former Slaves, Benjamins 2016), and edited a volume with Stephanie Schnurr (Identity struggles, Benjamins, 2017).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General