Sub-theme 27: Re-conceptualizing Leadership and its Development: Space, Place and the Virtual World


Brigid Carroll, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Donatella De Paoli, BI Norwegian Business School, Norway
Arja Ropo, University of Tampere, Finland
Helen Nicholson, Lund University, Sweden

Call for Papers

Drawn on the ’spatial turn’ in organization studies (Clegg & Kornberger, 2006; Dale and Burrell, 2008; 2002; Hernes, Bakken & Olsen, 2006; Kornberger and Clegg, 2004; Van Marrewijk and Yanow, 2010; Taylor and Spicer 2007) we invite you to explore what spaces and places mean from the leadership perspective. We encourage to take an ontological and epistemological leap from leader-centric competency notions toward more emerging, relational, embodied, and practice-oriented ways of conceiving leadership. This stream provides a forum to discuss what spatiality of leadership might entail in two realms: leadership in the intensified virtual world and/ or spaces of leadership development. Both of these spheres give insights into the impact such spaces can have on re-conceptualizing leadership.

Based on Lefebvre’s (1991) theory of spatial production, Taylor and Spicer argue (2007) that understanding organizational spaces calls for studying them as planned/conceived, practiced/perceived, and imagined/lived. Also, there is a call to study social, material, and virtual worlds as interconnected, as sociomaterial (Orlikowski, 2007). We join Alvesson and Willmot (1992) in indicating that spatial practices “produce people” (Dale, 2005; Dale and Burrell, 2008) and that organizational aesthetics is an issue of politics and power. Thus, an aesthetic approach to understand leading and organizing in various spaces is needed (e.g. Linstead and Höpfl, 2000; Ropo, Sauer and Salovaara, 2013; Strati, 1999). By aesthetics we refer here to embodied, sensuous knowing and “felt meaning” of space rather than to beauty or art (Hansen, Ropo & Sauer, 2007).

Beyond the aspects of increasing virtual ways of leading and organizing work, this stream explores the complex relationship of leadership development site (virtual and/ or face to face) to the organizational site, the ambiguous identity work required by all agents in such spaces (organizational sponsors and gatekeepers, providers and facilitators and development participants) and the processes of suspension, contestation, representation, play and the like which produce new ways of conceiving leadership and the ‘developed subject’.

We seek papers that engage with the following questions (amongst others):

  • How do the virtual, material and social worlds construct each other with respect to leadership and its development?
  • How do spaces and places matter in virtual work and leadership development?
  • What tensions are experienced by the participants, providers, facilitators, development professionals, and organisational sponsors who inhabit new and/ or virtual spaces in leadership development ?
  • What different identities, narratives, struggles and possibilities are created in the interaction between the leadership development space (virtual or otherwise) and the organisational site?
  • What role does language, story-telling and discourse have in constructing the experience of being within (and going between) spaces?
  • How do dynamics of power, expertise, inequality and resistance play out in virtual and face to face spaces and places, and how can these advance our understanding of leadership and leadership development?
  • What spaces and places of freedoms, alternatives, subversions and possibilities could leadership development aspire to?
  • How is the ‘developed subject’ created in leadership development through virtual, blended and face to face means – what are the practices, relationships, technologies, discourses, and tensions of doing so?
  • How can we understand leadership and leadership development as a textual, temporal, virtual, social or embodied space?


Alvesson, M. and Willmott, H. (Eds.) (1992). Critical Management Studies. London: Sage.

Clegg, S.R & Kornberger, M. (Eds.) (2006). Space, organizations and management theory. Liber & Copenhagen Business School Press.

Dale, K. (2005) Building a social materiality: Spatial and embodied politics in organizational control. Organization 12 (5): 649-678.

Dale, K. & Burrell, G. (2008). Spaces of organization and the organization of space. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hansen, H., Ropo, A. & Sauer, E. (2007). Aesthetic leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 18: 544-560.

Hernes, T., Bakken, T., & Olsen, P.I. (2006). Spaces as process: Developing a recursive perspective on organizational space. In Clegg, S.R & Kornberger, M. (Eds.), Space, organizations and management theory. Liber & Copenhagen Business School Press, 44-63.

Kornberger, M. & Clegg, S.R. (2004). Bringing space back in: Organizing the generative building. Organization Studies, 25 (7): 1095-1114.

Linstead, S.A. and Höpfl, H. J. (2000). The aesthetics of organization. London. Sage.

Orlikowski, W.J. (2007). Sociomaterial Practices: Exploring Technology at Work. Organization Studies, 28: 1435-1448.

Ropo, A., Sauer, E. and Salovaara, P. (2013). Embodiment of leadership through material place. Leadership 9(3): 378-395.

Strati, A. (1999) Organization and aesthetics. London: Sage.

Taylor, S. & Spicer, A. (2007). Time for space: A narrative review of research on organizational spaces. International Journal of Management Reviews 9(4): 325- 346.

Van Marrewijk, A. & Yanow, D. (Eds.) (2010). Organizational spaces. Rematerializing the workaday world. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Arja Ropo is Professor of Management and Organization at the University of Tampere, School of Management, Finland. Her current research interests include leadership, spaces and places, embodiment and aesthetics of leadership and visual narratives of leadership.

Brigid Carroll is the Research Director at the New Zealand Leadership Institute based at the University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand.  Her current issues include critical approaches to leadership and its development, identity work, and discourse and narrative studies.

Helen Nicholson is a Research Fellow at Lund University and a lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School. Her current research includes critical leadership scholarship, identity work, new forms of work and discourse theory.

Posted On: June 8, 2014
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