The bumpy road to exercising leadership: Fragmentations in meaning and practice

Mats Alvesson, Anna Jonsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (SciVal)


The present study focuses on a manager’s understanding of leadership and how this guides – or does not guide practice. The paper reports an empirical in-depth study of a middle manager in an international manufacturing company. We link our discussion to both – the mainstream leadership studies, which assume that managers have a solid type of leadership behavior, and authors with a meaning-oriented, linguistic approach to leadership, in which language, self-awareness, and behavior are linked. The present study suggests that leadership attempts can vary, be divisive, and that a manager’s advocacy efforts are driven by a multitude of different, partly opposing, forces, meaning a decoupling of ideas and behavior in leadership practice. The paper raises the question of whether managers’ meanings of leadership correspond with what they do in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-57
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The authors gratefully appreciate the support from Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Research Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.


  • Identity
  • managing
  • practice
  • qualitative research
  • relational leadership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management


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