The performativity of leadership talk

Barbara Simpson*, Linda Buchan, John Sillince

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Leadership-as-practice holds great promise for the re-theorisation of leadership in ways that reflect the dynamics of ongoing practice in the day-to-day realities of organising. However, in order to progress this agenda there is an urgent need to develop more dynamic theories and complementary methodologies that are better able to engage with the continuities of leadership practice. This paper responds to this need firstly by teasing out the conceptual implications of the practices/practice duality, differentiating between leadership as a set of practices, and leadership in the flow of practice. Then, drawing theoretical insights from Austin and Mead, the performative effects of turning points in the flow of ordinary conversation are examined in the context of the leadership talk of a senior management team. The paper makes contributions to both theory and methodology, which are elaborated empirically to show how different types of talk relate to different phases of leadership practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-661
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • conversational flow
  • Leadership-as-practice
  • methodology
  • performative effects
  • turning points

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management


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