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Leadership in interaction. An introduction to the Special Issue
Leadership  (IF2.403),  Pub Date : 2020-09-03, DOI: 10.1177/1742715020954790
Jonathan Clifton, Magnus Larsson, Stephanie Schnurr

One of the most widespread ways of defining leadership as a phenomenon seems to be that of considering it to be a process of personal influence through which organisational goals are achieved (Northouse, 2010; Rost, 1991; Yukl, 2013). Further, rather than considering leadership to be a capacity or a state, most researchers also consider it to be something that happens or which is enacted, performed, accomplished or something similar. However, despite this seemingly shared understanding, until fairly recently, very few studies existed that focused on the observation of action, interaction, or performance of leadership as it occurred in a naturally-occurring environment. While behaviourally oriented studies have ostensibly focussed on overt actions, these behaviours are very rarely observed and reported in any detail. Similarly, interview based studies have typically relied on individual accounts of action, and the respondents’ interpretation and understanding of them, but they are less attentive to the actions themselves. However, drawing inspiration from a few early and influential studies (Boden, 1994; Gronn, 1983; Knights and Willmott, 1992), over the last 20 years we have begun to see an increasing number of studies which offer close and detailed analyses of leadership in interaction, across a range of scholarly journals (see for example: Choi and Schnurr, 2014; Clifton, 2006; Larsson and Lundholm, 2013). This increasing interest in the enactment of leadership as an observable and reportable workplace phenomenon was amplified by the publication of Fairhurst’s (2007) influential book ‘Discursive Leadership: In Conversation with Leadership Psychology’. Fairhurst’s basic argument was that leadership research would benefit from complementing the use of surveys and questionnaires with various forms of discursively oriented studies, including the analysis of situated interaction.