Reaction Paper

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Discursive method in leadership studies

This is a reaction paper to Clifton (2012)'s article A Discursive Approach to Leadership: Doing Assessments and Managing Organizational Meanings (Journal of Business Communication, p. 148 - 168). In the article, Clifton used his findings to contribute to the newly emerged approach in leadership research: the discursive approach. Discursive leadership approach considers that the individuals with the most ability to influence the process of managing meanings in decision making naturally emerge as the leaders. In order to explain how competing suggestions for future action are framed during these decision-talks, Clifton used discursive constructionist tool (DC) to provide fine-grain analyses of a monthly staff meeting. DC mainly deals with the way "reality" is constructed in the talks, and how it was organized in order to counter competing suggestions. Based on these analyses, the author provided us with four main observations: firstly, leadership does not necessary correlate with organizational hierarchy. Secondly, leadership is a constant flow; it can be shared or distributed amongst some or even all participants. Thirdly, leadership is not the "property" of any individual, but is open to challenge. Finally, as leadership is not a zero sum game, neither is followership: it was shown to be enacted during the conversation by participants surrendering their power to manage meanings. These findings are very important, Clifton argued, because they prove that discursive resources are the key to the ability of influencing the management of meanings, and thus of leadership itself. From this, he advocates for stronger education in the power of talk, which is mistakenly often neglected. Discursive approach is, in my opinion, a very interesting approach to leadership, as earlier trends have only mainly looked at leaders from a macro point of view: actions and characteristics of a leader, etc. The discursive approach, however,...
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