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Embodied leadership through place and space

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  1. Embodied leadership through place and space Arja Ropo, Perttu Salovaara, Erika Sauer University of Tampere and Donatella De Paoli Norwegian School of Management BI

  2. Research on embodiment of leadership is scarce • Ropo & Parviainen, 2001 • Ropo, Parviainen & Koivunen, 2002 • Koivunen, 2003 • Guthey & Jackson, 2005 • Sinclair, 2005 • Sauer, 2005 • Hansen, Ropo & Sauer, 2007 • Ropo & Sauer, 2008 • Ladkin, 2008 • Ladkin & Taylor, 2010 • Schroeder, 2010

  3. Purpose of the study and research question • to explorehowleadership and spacearerelated to eachother • to discusshowleadershipconstructions and practicesareembodied in differentspatialconditions • to contribute to an aestheticembodiedleadershiptheory • HOW DO SPACES AND PLACES CONSTRUCT AND PERFORM LEADERSHIP?

  4. Research on place and space in organizations: threestreams • Traditional, objectiveapproach: physicalenvironmentfromarchitectural and managerialperspective (Elsbach & Pratt, 2007) • Subjectivelyorientedresearch on social space (Lefebvre, 1991; Hatch, 1997; Martin, 2002) • Critical, post-stucturalistapproachfocusing on power and politicsthatspaceforms (Foucault, 1977; Dale & Burrell, 2008)

  5. Shift of interest FROM an objective, managerial, and architectural approach, such as ”this is how it is planned and determined to work” TOWARD understanding the symbolic meaning of physical spaces to social interaction, such as ”this is how it affects people, how people use and interpret it”


  6. Relationship of leadership and space • Leadershiphasbeenstudied in variousempiricalsettings and contxts, butspace as suchhasnotbeenconceptuallytreated. • The samephysicalconditionsproducedifferentresponses (Elsbach & Pratt, 2007) • Differentspacescarry and maintaindifferentconstructions of leadership. • Leadershipis seenhere as feltexperienceratherthan as cognitive and rationalinfluencebetween the leader and the followers

  7. Three notions of leadership • Distinction between the concepts of leader and leadership • Leadership as a relationally constructed phenomenon (Hosking, 2006) and as management of meaning (Smircich & Morgan, 1982) • Leadership as an aesthetic, bodily phenomenon, as a sensing activity: Leadership occurs and is constructed not only in the intellectual minds, but also in and through the sensing and experiencing bodies (e.g., Hansen, Ropo, & Sauer, 2007; Ladkin, 2008; Ladkin & Taylor, 2010; Ropo & Parviainen, 2001; Sinclair, 2005)

  8. The aestheticorientation to leadership and spaceexploresfeltexperiences, symbolicmeanings and inherentpowerissueswhichspaces and placesreflect and produce. • Relationshipbetweenleadership and space is twofold: physicalplacesform and shapeleadershipconstructions and acteduponleadershipproduces social, experiencedspaces. • Physicalplacesallow, enable, encourage, and constraintorhindervariousleadershipconstructions and acteduponleadershippractice.

  9. Methodology and data • Aestheticepistemologylegitimizessense-based data, such as emotions, bodilysensations, intuitions,andmentalrepresentations (Strati, 2007) • Data: photographs on organizationalspaces, written and oraldescriptions of organisationmembers on howtheyfeel the physicalspace as a place to work, interact, and as a place for leadership • Narrativeanalysis • Traditionallybuiltuniversitydepartment and an open flexibleofficespace as empiricalfoci

  10. Narrating leadership in a university department • Shiny floors in a steel building • Dynamic, modern, effective? • Sterile, clean, pure? • Two floors, symbolic hierarchies Egos

  11. ”Face book” of some, but not of all

  12. Where is leadership lurking?Can you see it, feel it, smell it? • Behind the close doors? • In the hallways? • In faculty meetings? • In the coffee room? • In the department head’s office? Egos

  13. Aquarium – coffee room surrounded by windows • The furniture, colors, and the overall style resemble the clinical atmosphere of the building • Young researchers gather in the coffee room regularly • The department chair never visits the upper level coffee room uninvited Egos

  14. There are rooms and there are ROOMS Egos

  15. Peoplehavedifferentattachment to the theirofficespace Egos

  16. Some preliminary observations of leadership and space in a traditional office building • Leadershipseems to besimultaneouslyhidden and obvious. • Leadership is performed in paradoxicalways. • The samespaceprovidesdifferentaffordances. (Gibson, 1966)

  17. Leaders and leadership in an alternative office architecture

  18. Concluding thoughts on leadership and space: Differentspatialsolutionsgivespace (sic!) to differentemphases on leadershipinteraction • Hierarchy, Power and Control • Interaction, Communicationand Influence • Leader-centricity, Collaboration