Dis/embodied leadership: intersections of leadership and social class
One weakness with the discursive leadership to date is the failure to explore ways in which material conditions also shape leadership (Fairhurst, 2009). Further, Dougherty (2011) argued that discursive constructionism without a consideration of material conditions is middle class privilege. By privileging the discursive over the material, discursive leadership could be reproducing social inequalities, which relates to issues of social class. The purpose of this dissertation is to understand how leadership and social class become mutually constructed through the interplay between discourse and materiality. The concepts of text work and body work are used to understand how social class is linked with the types of work an individual does. Similar to white-collar/blue-collar distinctions, text work refers to jobs that emphasize the use of communication, and body work refers to jobs that emphasize more physical labor (Dougherty, 2011). A thematic narrative analysis was applied to stories about leadership that were told during interviews with a total of 21 participants (10 body workers and 11 text workers), and observations added context and thick description to participants' narratives about leadership. The theory of Language Convergence/Meaning Divergence provided a lens for understanding how meanings for leadership diverge based on different material experiences in day-to-day work. Findings indicate that discursive and material conditions of work interact to construct different meanings for leadership. Text workers emphasized communication in their constructions of leadership, while body workers constructed leadership more as an embodied practice. Additionally, compared to text workers, body workers demonstrated a more nuanced understanding of leadership that integrated a concern for discursive processes in addition to emphasizing material conditions.