University of Southern California

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Practice & Policy

Gail Fairhurst’s “Considering context in discursive leadership research”

Gail Fairhurst, in “Considering context in discursive leadership research,” (“Human Relations” 2009; 62; 1607 originally published online Sep 23, 2009) suggests that asking what discourse is “doing” as opposed to “representing” are very different questions.  Leadership, from this perspective focuses on figuring out what leadership is in the context of what leaders do and then persuading themselves and others that they are doing it. In this sense leadership is a set of language games in the in the Wittgenstein’s sense of ‘forms of life’ and being grounded in the everyday realities of those who aspire to lead and be led.  Fairhurst notes that, “With these sensibilities, discursive leadership scholars are very problem oriented. They delve deep into the context and are content with building local knowledge around which problems form. Most place a premium on actors’ view of the context over researchers’ view following the ethnomethodological tradition of Garfinkel (1967) who objects to treating actors as unwitting dupes”  (p. 1609).