Exploring leadership as it is expressed within professional rugby : the application of Merleau-Ponty's sensual ontology of flesh to organisational practice

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis centres on the practice turn, specifically leadership-as-practice (LAP). It draws on a phenomenological lineage in order to expand LAP’s ambition to grasp leadership empirically. The thesis argues that to ward off regurgitating realist assumptions as we conduct our methodology, it may be useful to direct our philosophical endeavours at how the body is understood during empirical inquiries. The body, however, is a problematic concept within the social sciences, often depicted as a distinct, bounded, entity with the result a ‘disembodied’ gaze onto leadership. The research questions therefore whether an alternative philosophy of the body may better inform how researchers get a feel for leadership in practice.To embrace this alternative, the thesis turns to Maurice Merleau-Ponty's reversible ontology of flesh.This philosophy illustrates how body and world continually co-create each other. Furthermore, such corporeality paves the way for an epistemology of sensual expression which identifies knowledge as emerging from this reversible creation. In order to elaborate on this ‘fleshy’frame, the research draws on sociological and anthropological literature to sensually ‘reawaken’ the scholar’s body within the ‘thick’ of practice. The thesis utilises this framework to re-envisage ethnography from a realist,bounded, perspective to a sensory, emplaced, affair. The ethnography culminates by providing six sensual depictions of leadership within Hibernia, a professional rugby team. Through these depictions we can empirically understand LAP as a ‘sensuous intoxication’,displayed through three corporeal lenses that explore leadership: the situated body; the emotional body; and the physical body. These lenses respectively inform the expression of leadership as: coproduced through lines of site/sight; a deeply felt (e)motional engagement; and as a manner of communal orientation. The thesis closes by detailing the key empirical features of such sensuous intoxication and how it contributes towards a practice approach.
Date of Award31 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorPeter McInnes (Supervisor) & Barbara Simpson (Supervisor)

Cite this