Rhetoric of stability and change: The organizational identity work of institutional leadership

Benjamin D. Golant, John AA Sillince, Charles Harvey, Mairi Maclean

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This article highlights a dynamic and productive duality in the expression of organizational identity claims between demonstrating coherence with the past and responsiveness in the present. Informed by renewed interest in the concept of institutional leadership, which is precisely concerned with the management of this temporal duality, we argue that its reconciliation depends on active discursive intervention. Drawing from archive data of executive speeches at Procter & Gamble (P&G), we suggest that through dissociation, the rhetorical device to distinguish the claim of an accurate or essential interpretation of core and distinctive values from a peripheral or apparent understanding, leaders actively construct fresh potentialities for organizational change. We thereby develop new insights into the dynamic processes of organizational identity maintenance, revealing its capacity to be regenerative and a herald to the new.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-631
Number of pages25
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • dissociation
  • institutional leadership
  • organizational identity work
  • rhetoric
  • temporality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Strategy and Management
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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