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Bill Clinton and the End of Leadership

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


Bill Clinton is exemplary of a new conception of leadership appropriate for the 21st century. In spite of his sexual proclivities (for which he received harsh criticism and impeachment proceedings) Clinton’s physicality signals an end of a Gnostic view of leadership that separates the knowing head from the rest of the body. We propose that 20th century manifestations of leadership are no longer appropriate for this age, and we illustrate this idea with the ‘reality’ television series Undercover Boss. Further, by exploring artist Peter Robinson’s installation The End of the Twentieth Century we claim that Clinton’s call for inclusivity, a ‘both–and’ approach that characterizes his late- and post-Presidential rhetoric, opens possibilities for alternative constructs that place the body at the heart of leadership. Our exploration of Clinton’s physicality is through his speech to the APEC business leaders in 1999, his commentary on the movie documentary The Hunting of the President and his speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In each of these he reaches out to his audiences through physical and verbal gestures. He pleads for tolerance and understanding so that people may find commonalities among their flaws and differences. Through enacting the physical ‘doing’ of leadership in these instances, Bill Clinton offers an exemplar of re-locating leadership within its physical context.



Bathurst, R. and Messervy, A. (2014), "Bill Clinton and the End of Leadership", The Physicality of Leadership: Gesture, Entanglement, Taboo, Possibilities (Monographs in Leadership and Management, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 199-218.



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