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Narrative construction of leader identity in a leader development program context

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With the increasing globalization, new organizational structures,and rapid change the leader has been increasingly individualizedand personalized. The leader has been put under pressure to reveal a leadership, inwhich the personality of the individual leader is increasingly important. Moreover,the individual leader has become central for creating and communicatingorganizational meaning, and the leaders’ personal conduct, ethics and identity aretaken to be symbolic of the organizational brand. Leaders are increasingly publiclyevaluated based on how he “tells the story” of him-self and the organization e.g. theextent to which the leader exemplifies and lives the organizational brand. This isreflected in a growing demand for leader development programs with a personalorientation, and psychological oriented development focused on the individualleaders’ personal challenges.Recent theoretical developments in the intersection of critical management studiesand narrative identity studies have challenged prior assumptions and approaches,with a departure in social constructivist perspectives leadership is conceived asnarrative identity construction embedded in social practice and context. Hence,leader studies turn to investigate the emergence of leaders as processes of identitywork in particular contexts, privileging the use of language, social interaction andcritical reflexive approaches.This dissertation explores the narrative construction of leader identity in the contextof a leader development program, examining the processes and the content ofidentity work of leaders. Empirically five Danish executives from five differentindustries have been studied in a three year period, starting with a one-year longleader development program and in two following interviews. The material isanalyzed within a theoretical and methodological framework inspired by acombination of social constructivist, discursive, narrative and critical managementapproaches to identity and leadership research. The narrative analytical frameworkis based on narrative theory, narrative therapy theorization, and positioning theory,analyzing the thematic, temporal and relational aspects of the five leaders’ narrativeaccounts. Hence, the analytical strategy analyzes the narrative recourses of:problem stories, preferred stories, storylines, and the negotiation of subjectpositions used by the five leaders in constructing certain situated leader identities

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Gitte P. Jakobsen

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