The Managementalist

A blog about management, organization and life in the academia

Streamlining the website

I have made some small changes to the Managementalist website. To keep things simple, the links to my publications and conference papers now take you to my pages. I have also added a section on the teaching I do.

My blog postings will remain infrequent and irregular for the time being. The situation should change by the summer.

EGOS 2013, Sub-theme 41: Embodying Leadership with Ethics in Mind

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Alison Pullen, Swansea University, UK
Pasi Ahonen, Swansea University, UK
Suzanne Gagnon, McGill University, Canada

Call for Papers

Given the need to operationalize effective leadership in fast changing organizational times and often within states of economic, political and social crisis, the practical as well as epistemic challenges that leaders face require serious academic scrutiny. In this stream we perform such analysis by contesting the continued theorization and research of leadership as disembodied, and instead paying critical attention to the corporeal nature of leadership itself. In this way we offer this stream as a place to think about the ways in which leadership is an affective and embodied practice.

Whether it is transformational leadership, charismatic leadership, or situational leadership, the common assumption is that good leadership emanates from the mind or personality. If the body is considered, it is done so superficially, for example by associating leadership effectiveness with physical characteristics and/or assuming that the leader is able-bodied and ostensibly Western. To date there have been only a small number of studies that recognize the embodied nature of leadership or question leaders’ disembodied character (e.g. Ropo & Parviainen, 2001; Ropo & Sauer, 2008; Sinclair, 2005). The bodily and affective labour of leadership and its relationship with ethical practice have also been largely overlooked (with notable exceptions such as Calás & Smircich, 1991). Moreover leadership’s engagement with corporeal ethics, an ethics of the body, has been noted as a promising but as yet unexplored territory which is worthy of academic engagement (Pullen & Rhodes, 2010).

‘Embodying Leadership’ calls attention to the affective and embodied dimensions of leadership. This recognizes that leadership requires large elements of empathy, insight into others’ normative and moral frameworks, considerable persuasive skills and, most especially, embodied interactions and responses between flesh-and-blood people. Some have characterized these qualities as feminine leadership (e.g. Peters, 1990). It has been argued that such characteristics are gendered such that men more closely conform to disembodied leadership and women to affective/embodied leadership (cf. Adler, 1997). Others argue that such attempts to typecast the sexes is itself gendered and that this reproduces rather than challenges taken for granted gender and sexual binary divisions, dichotomies and inequalities (Calás & Smircich, 1993; Knights & Kerfoot, 2004).

While gender, and its embodied manifestation, has received some attention in leadership studies ‘race’ and ethnicity has been neglected. The relationship between race and leadership has however been attended to in other fields, and there is an important stream of work by leadership scholars in critical management and organization (see Edmonson Bell & Nkomo, 2001; Parker, 2004; Chin, 2009; Mumby, 2011). Much of the existing work approaches the themes from the particular perspective of American social dynamics and racial and ethnic constructs (see Omi & Winant, 1994). Importantly, studies of embodiment and leadership appear to date to have neglected race and racialization, and ethnicity and ethnicization, notwithstanding important exceptions (e.g. hooks, 2004) even these too are embodied matters.

Bringing these threads of embodiment, gender and race together the stream will forge new directions in the study of leadership that no longer just keep leadership ‘in mind’.


Adler, N.J. (1997): ‘Global Leadership: Women Leaders.’ Management International Review, 37, 171–196.
Calás, M.B. & L.M. Smircich (1991): ‘Voicing seduction to silence leadership.’ Organization Studies, 12, 567–602.
Calás, M.B. & L.M. Smircich (1993): Dangerous liaisons: the “feminine-in-management” meets “globalization”.’Business Horizons, March/April, 71–81.
Chin, J.L. (2009): ‘Gender, race and leadership.’ In: R.H. Klein, C.A. Rice & V.L. Schermer (eds.): Leadership in a Changing World: Dynamic Perspectives on Groups and their Leaders. Plymouth: Lexington Books, 73–92.
Edmonson Bell, E.J.L. & S.M. Nkomo (2001): Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women and the Struggle for Professional Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
hooks, b. (2004): We Real Cool. Black Men and Masculinity. New York: Routledge.
Knights, D. & D. Kerfoot (2004): ‘Between representations and subjectivity: gender binaries and the politics of organizational transformation.’ Gender, Work and Organization, 11 (4), 430–454.
Mumby, D.K. (2011): Reframing Difference in Organizational Communication Studies: Research, Pedagogy, Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Omi, M. & H. Winant (1994): Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge.
Parker, P.S. (2004): Race, Gender, and Leadership: Re-envisioning Organizational Leadership from the Perspectives of African-American Women Executives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Peters, T. (1990): ‘The Best New Managers Will Listen, Motivate, Support – Isn’t That Just Like a Woman?’Working Woman, September 1990, 216–217.
Pullen, A. & C. Rhodes (2010): ‘Gender, Ethics and The Face.’ In: P. Lewis & R. Simpson (eds.): Concealing and Revealing Gender. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 233–248.
Ropo, A. & J. Parvianen (2001): ‘Leadership and bodily knowledge in expert organizations: epistemological rethinking.’ Scandanavian Journal of Management, 17 (1), 1–18.
Ropo, A. & E. Sauer (2008): ‘Dances of leadership: Bridging theory and practice through an aesthetic approach.’Journal of Management and Organization, 14 (5), 560–572.
Sinclair, A. (2005): ‘Body and Management Pedagogy.’ Gender, Work and Organization, 12 (1), 89–104.

Alison Pullen is Professor of Organization Studies, Swansea University, UK. Alison has published extensively in the broad areas of identity, gender, ethics and the body. She is currently engaged in numerous writing projects around embodiment, ethics and leadership including “The Materiality of Leadership” and “The Ethico-Political Organization”.
Pasi Ahonen is Lecturer in Organization Studies at Swansea University, UK. His current work focuses on organizations and the media, politics of history in organizational change and analytics of power in the practice and theory of organizations. Within the field of leadership studies, Pasi’s current focus is on the relationship between leadership and modalities of power. He is currently editing a collection on theory and methodology of critical leadership studies.
Suzanne Gagnon is Assistant Professor in the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Canada. Suzanne studies discursive and material constructions of identity, diversity and inequality and their effects, including for leadership and situated leadership actors. Amongst other projects, she is a co-lead for a five-year Community University Research Alliance (CURA) examining leadership diversity in large organizations, supported by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Call for Papers

Re-covering Difference in Organization Studies: the Effects of Diversity and its Management (Stream G). Asia-Pacific Researchers in Organization Studies Conference, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, 15-17 February 2013.

University Fees ‘Reform’ in England and Relations of Power

Evidence about how prospective students are responding to the rather shambolic university fee reform in England is trickling in. The debate over the evidence has, of course, already started. So say it is early days, others say it is showing the beginnings of a trend. What is clear, however, is that the UCAS data shows that applications are down significantly (15.1 per cent according to the THE and 13% according to the BBC). This early data is ‘historically unreliable’ (THE), but I think there will be more people surprised if this does not indicate a trend than if it does.

The universities minister Willets, of course, holds the party line. The UniversitiesUK takes a rather more cautious view, tying the success or the failure of this grand social experiment to the still-to-be-determined reaction by prospective students. Professor Eric Thomas, the President of UUK, argues that if people find out how the fees work, there should be reason not to apply to university to do a degree.

Taken as they are, the figures do seem to support Professor Thomas’ view. The facts are he following (caveat emptor! this is for information purposes only):

  • the student pays nothing upfront or during their studies
  • payments start after graduation (or after dropping out, presumably) and only when annual income passes the £21,000 limit
  • of the annual gross salary in excess of £21,000, the graduate (or drop-out) pays 9 per cent as student loan repayment
  • the payments continue until the loan is repaid back or for 30 years, whichever is sooner
  • whatever balance remains at the end of the 30-year period will not have to be paid

On the face of it, this does not seem like such a bad deal. There are no upfront payments, and whatever the payments will be in the future, they will be predictable.

For example, if the graduate earns £30,000, the amount in excess of the £21,000 limit is £9,000. 9% of this £9,000 is £810. So the graduate will (only?) need to pay this amount, is monthly instalments of £67.50. Assuming that this £30,000 is a career average for the 30-year repayment period, the graduate would never have to pay the whole amount, paying back the capital of the students loan (if we assume it is £36,000) would take more than 44 years. And then there are is the interest, and interest on interest and the interest on interest on interest (I am sure you see the pattern here).

If the graduate is supremely gifted, lucky, well-connected or wins the Apprentice (or some combination of these factors) and earns £100,000 per annum, the amount in excess of the limit is £79,000, which translates into payments of £7,110 per year or £592.50 per month. At this rate, the loan is paid back very quickly, in some 5 years. Even the interest will not have much time to add onto the capital that much.

So, all in all, the system looks quite fair, in the Tory kind of way. If you earn a lot, you get rid of your debt. If you do not earn that much, you do not have to pay it all back.

What remains unclear, and what no one, still, seems to be discussing, is the effect of the debt burden on the graduate’s ‘fiscal health’. Should they wish to buy a house to live in, how will the debt be treated? Since the cost is individualized, it would make sense, from the lenders’ perspective, to count the debt amount against the individual in question. The £36,000 debt, probably considered to be a ‘good debt’ in some sense, will reduce the mortgage the individual is able to get. Which in turn reduces the amount of money they can pay to the seller of the house. It seems that future graduates will less space, house prices have to come down, or people will be tenants in rental accommodation all their life. The latter two options would be rather anti-Thatcherite effects for a Tory policy.

Perhaps most importantly, though, this shift will bring in, or accelerate, the rise of the new kind of power relationship Maurizio Lazzarato has identified, building on Foucault’s work on modalities of power. This power relationship is that of debtor and creditor. We have already seen how this modality of power has challenged the sovereignty, the power of the state. Under the pressure from creditors, Greece has lost much of its sovereignty, and Italy has brought in a government comprised of technocrats, people who are experts not in democracy but in economics. In UK, or at least in England, the debtor-creditor power relationship will be (further) individualized through the university fee ‘reform’. In England, the idea seems to be to offload the sovereign debt problem to the individual. The dynamic will be different, but the principal power relationship is the same. The power relationship will bring in new realities, as the new intensifications of power tend to do. We know little of those new realities, but we a headed toward them.

Collaborating in the Cloud

Many academics, especially those whose work is largely comprised of writing, are reluctant to adopt new ways of writing. Among all the adopters of new technologies, I think we can safely say that academics are among the slowest ones. If it works, and a word processor often does, there is not need to go all innovative. If it ain’t broke you certainly don’t waste any time fixing it. Time is a precious commodity.

A couple of weeks ago we finished putting together an ESRC Research Seminars bid. In the past such endeavours have been riddled with last minute panic and endless sifting through various Word documents arriving via email, consolidating additions to the text and trying to keep a record of all the comments. All eating up time. And nerves.

Not this time. While there were still some last minute jitters (largely thanks to the idiosyncracies in ESRC’s Je-S electronic proposal submission system), the experience of coordinating the bid was wholly different. Despite the innovativeness involved, we opted to do it all in the Cloud. To be successful, it had to be simple. This meant no passwords and no registrations. We had some 20 people to keep informed and on board, so having to have people register and then having them to remember their passwords was not something that was going to be workable.

The best option was to use what the ubiquitous Internet company Google has to offer, the Google Docs. The budget was put together on the Google Spreadheet and the proposal itself was worked on, unsurprisingly, as a Google Document. These two documents were shared via a dedicated links; anyone with the link could access the documents and edit them.

With 20 people directly involved, all this might have resulted in all kinds of anarchy, but it did not. The documents could be worked on simultaneously or in sequence, ‘delivery time’ became largely a non-conccept, and everybody always had the latest version of whatever was being worked on. The only problems we encountered were problems were compatibility issues between Microsoft (and to a lesser degree, Apple) and Google. Those who had access to the Google Chrome browser had the best user experience.

The group that was brought together to work on this bid was an unestablished one. There were no preceding links of organisational structures that could have helped in the collaboration. It all had to be put together with a minimum of fuss and preparation. As the work progresses, and we may soon be able to call ourselves a ‘network’, the tools will likely change. Thanks to the hindrances that there are (intentionally?—one wonders) due to the compatibility issues, it is likely that the the future collaboration and communication will shift over to the Microsoft world. Such is the power of legacy systems. The next challenge is to get people to register—and to keep hold of their passwords.

Collaborating in the Cloud, however, may just become part of ‘it’, the one that does not require fixing.

Call for Papers: EGOS 2012, Subtheme: ‘Redesigning Leadership in Organizations: The Economic Imperative and Ethical Practice’


David Knights, University of the West of England, UK,
lead convenor

Peter Case, University of the West of England, UK

Tuomo Takala, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Over recent years we have witnessed a plethora of failures in ethical corporate leadership with varying consequences. The business ethics research community has responded largely by focusing on (1) the nature, dynamics, limitations and improvement of corporate social responsibility policies and practices, (2) the ways in which corporate citizenship should be understood, implemented and improved, (3) the ways in which globalization and internationalization of business are changing the ethical questions and problems faced by corporations and their leaders, and (4) what can be done to help managers recognize and be sensitive to moral issues and ethical question in their work.

Most of the research can be divided roughly into prescriptive and descriptive approaches. The prescriptive approach builds primarily on philosophical ethics and focuses on principles that, if adhered to, constitute ‘ethical leadership’ (see, Bass & Steidlemeier 1999; Ciulla 2004). The descriptive approach draws on psychology, sociology and organization studies and focuses more on how leadership is perceived as ethical (or not) in particular organizational and social settings (see, Brown et al., 2005; Treviño et al., 2000; Treviño et al, 2003). What is common to much of the ethical leadership research in both approaches is the tendency to conceptualize ethics as an issue, question or problem. In effect, ethics is simply one more variable that has an effect on how business is done and how leaders and managers (ought to) behave (Sandberg 2008).

Despite recurrent crises, the leadership and ethics literature seems comparatively unaffected by critical perspectives. There are some examples of earlier critical work (see eg, Takala 1989), and some inroads have been made more recently (see, Parker 2003; Knights & O’Leary 2005; 2006; Case & Gosling 2007; Banerjee 2008, 2010; Crane et al. 2008; Jones 2010; Case et al. 2011). These interventions have raised such questions as the importance of analyses of power in studies on ethical leadership, the insufficiency of some of the existing dominant conceptualizations in the field (such as ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’) and the possibilities of approaching both the practice of ethics in leadership as well as the notions of ethics and leadership themselves from novel directions.

This subtheme aims to advance the leadership and ethics agenda. More specifically, it is concerned with redesigning studies of leadership and ethics in organizations. We argue that to gain critical understanding of ethics it is necessary to find ways to understand leadership, management and organization as ethical practices; practices that have an inherent ethical quality to them. But, if there is no escaping from ethics in leadership in contrast to leadership as ethics, how should we approach it as a research subject?

We invite contributions with theoretical, methodological or empirical perspectives that approach leadership and ethics from a critical perspective. We are particularly eager to hear from authors inspired by theoretical perspectives (e.g. gender and diversity studies) that are outside or at the margins of current leadership and ethics research and help us both to challenge and think more carefully about its assumptions, conceptualizations and truths.

We welcome proposals for papers addressing leadership and ethics, including:

  • The ethics of difference in leadership and organization
  • Feminist ethical leadership
  • The politics of ethical leadership
  • Charismatic leadership and ethics
  • Ethical leadership and globalization
  • Ethical leadership beyond good and evil
  • The practice of leadership and forms and traditions of ethics
  • New methodologies and research designs for leadership and ethics research

The deadline for short paper submissions is January 16th, 2012. For more information, see


Bass, B. M., & Steidlmeier, P. 1999. Ethics, character, and authentic transformational leadership behavior. Leadership Quarterly, 10(1) 181-218.

Banerjee, S. (2010). Governing the global corporation: A critical perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(2), 265-274.

Banerjee, S. B. (2008). Corporate social responsibility: The good, the bad and the ugly. Critical Sociology, 34(1), 51-79.

Brown, M. E., Treviño, L. K., & Harrison, D. A. 2005. Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 97(1), 117-34.

Case, P. & Gosling, J. (2007). Wisdom of the moment: Premodern perspectives on organizational action. Social Epistemology, 21(2), 87-111.

Case, P., French, R. & Simpson, P. (2011) The philosophy of leadership. In A.Bryman et al. (Eds), The SAGE handbook of leadership (pp. 242-52). London: Sage.

Ciulla, J, B. (Ed.) 2004. Ethics, the heart of leadership (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Crane, A., Knights, D., & Starkey, K. (2008). The conditions of our freedom: Foucault, organization, and ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 18(3), 299-320.

Jones, C. (2010). Editorial introduction: Derrida, business, ethics. Business Ethics: A European Review, 19(3), 235-237.

Knights, D., & O’Leary, M. (2005). Reflecting on corporate scandals: the failure of ethical leadership. Business Ethics: A European Review, 14(4), 359-366.

Knights, D., & O’Leary, M. (2006). Leadership, Ethics and Responsibility to the Other. Journal of Business Ethics, 67(2), 125-137.

Parker, M. (2003). Business, ethics and business ethics: Critical theory. In M. Alvesson & H. Willmott (Eds), Studying management critically (pp. 197-219). London and Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Sandberg, J. (2008). Understanding the separation thesis. Business Ethics Quarterly, 18(2), 213-232.

Takala, T. (1989). Discourse on the social responsibility of the firm in Finland, 1930-1940 and 1972-1982: Theoretical framework and empirical findings. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 5(1), 5-19.

Treviño, L. K., Brown, M., & Hartman, L. P. 2003. A qualitative investigation of perceived executive ethical leadership: Perceptions from inside and outside the executive suite. Human Relations, 55(1), 5-37.

Treviño, L. K., Hartman, L. P., & Brown, M. 2000. Moral person and moral manager: How executives develop a reputation for ethical leadership. California Management Review, 42(1) 128-142.

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