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Introduction: The Physicality of Leadership: ‘Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe

The Physicality of Leadership: Gesture, Entanglement, Taboo, Possibilities

ISBN: 978-1-78441-290-6, eISBN: 978-1-78441-289-0

Publication date: 24 November 2014


Although within the leadership literature there is a body of research concerning the physical attributes of leaders, close examination reveals that much of it offers a rather surface level of analysis. A number of studies, for example, attempt to correlate leaders’ height with their success, and attempts have been made to identify a relationship between leaders’ performance and their attractiveness. In this book, a range of scholars from differing perspectives delve below the apparent level of physicality to highlight its paradoxically ‘invisible’ aspects including: the impact of gesture, the way in which the physical is intrinsically interwoven with the social and the contradictory nature of bodily taboos. The book shows how each of these aspects plays an important role in the creation and maintenance of leadership relationships.

This chapter introduces three tussles we and our authors have faced in navigating this territory. Firstly, we have worked hard to find forms of writing which ‘point towards’ the experience of physicality. Realising that written language can never ‘be’ that experience (just as Magritte demonstrates with his painting, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ that the reproduction of the pipe is not the pipe itself) we have encouraged authors to contribute first-person accounts, in-depth case studies focused on individuals and even activities which involve the reader in order to evoke a sense of the physical. Secondly, we have endeavoured to distinguish the ‘inside-out’ phenomenon of ‘embodiment’ from the ‘outside-in’ occurrence of ‘physicality’. Finally, our authors have worked to reveal the mutual entanglement of social and material worlds, such that paradoxically, the physical reveals itself to be ‘in flow’ and continually in a process of ‘becoming’. After describing how we have sought to resolve these challenges, a taster from each chapter is offered. The chapter concludes by reasserting the importance of recognising the physical nature of the connection at the heart of human relationships experienced as leadership.



Ladkin, D. and Taylor, S.S. (2014), "Introduction: The Physicality of Leadership: ‘Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe’", The Physicality of Leadership: Gesture, Entanglement, Taboo, Possibilities (Monographs in Leadership and Management, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 1-13.



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