Leadership, Discourse and Ethnicity

Leadership, Discourse and Ethnicity

Leadership, Discourse and Ethnicity

Leadership, Discourse and Ethnicity


This is the first book in the field of workplace discourse to examine the relationships among leadership, ethnicity, and language use. Taking a social constructionist approach to the ways in which leadership is enacted through discourse,Leadership, Discourse, and Ethnicityproblematizes the concept of ethnicity and demonstrates the importance of context-particularly the community of practice-in determining what counts as relevant in the analysis of ethnicity. The authors analyze everyday workplace interactions supplemented by interview data to examine the ways in which workplace leaders use language to achieve their transactional and relational goals in contrasting "ethnicized" contexts, two of which are Maori and two European/Pakeha. Their analysis pays special attention to the roles of ethnic values, beliefs and orientations in talk.


He aha te kai a te rangatira? He kōrero, he kōrero, he kōrero
What is the food of the leader? It is eloquent talk, it is discussion,
it is communication.

Leadership has been the focus of innumerable studies over many centuries, but surprisingly few have considered how talk contributes to effective leadership. Even fewer have examined how leaders talk in organisations with distinctive ethnic values and objectives. This book looks in detail at leadership discourse in the workplace and focuses, in particular, on how leaders communicate in “ethnicised” organisations. In ethnicised workplaces, ethnicity acts as a taken-for-granted backdrop, crucial for interpreting everyday workplace communication; ethnic values underpin the guidelines or norms that influence the way people interact and the ways in which they construct different aspects of their identity, including their ethnicity (Schnurr, Marra and Holmes, 2007). As one Māori leader said during a meeting when discussing priorities, “Basically I’m here to do stuff for Māori”. This book explores how such a commitment is apparent in different leadership styles, and the ways in which ethnicity is instantiated in workplace talk.

A good starting point for our exploration is the following pair of excerpts from the opening of a team meeting in a New Zealand commercial organisation with a commitment to furthering the aspirations of the indigenous Māori population.

1. One version of a well-known Māori proverb checked and translated by one of our Māori research advisors.

2. Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, constituting 14.7 percent of the population (www.stats.govt.nz, 2006).

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