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“Sweat is weakness leaving the body”: A study on the self-presentational practices of sporty top managers in Sweden
Stockholms universitet.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2125-5451
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Embracing the symbolic interactionist view of the notion of self, applying dramaturgical theories of self-presentation, thisstudy unpacks the linkage between leaders’ lifestyle behaviours (in athletic endeavours) and the formation of their senseof self as occupants of the leadership role from a self-expressive perspective. I conducted a study of a group of sportytop managers in Sweden. With interviews and observations, I anchored the research focus in verbal expressions withinstorytelling and in performative expressions of the top managers. Drawing on social interpretations of sport and athleticismand with a dramaturgical analytical frame, I examine how the sporty top managers interpret their athletic endeavours toexpress important values, beliefs and concerns to express ‘whom they want to become’ as occupants of the leadership role.

The analysis shows that lifestyle behaviours in athletic endeavours serve as a new source of self-meanings with whichthe sporty top managers create and express wishful notions about themselves as occupants of the leadership role. By incorporating athletic values with their distinctive understanding of a ‘good leader’, the top managers seek to presentthemselves with an idealized image of ‘athletic leaders’. In this process, the top managers outline a role-script that is mainlycharacterized with self-disciplinary qualities and masculine values, they define the leadership context with athleticism inthe centre, and they express an overt intent to elevate some people and exclude others in organizational processes basedon athletic values in which they personally believe. Hence, the process of formation of self as ‘athletic leaders’ is not only‘self-relevant’, but it is personally, interpersonally and socially (organizationally) meaningful. The analysis also shows thatthe top managers seek to give legitimacy and an elitist status to the idealized view of self by using expressive strategies toappropriate their appearances, regulate emotions and bodily senses, and mould a gendered self-image.

This thesis contributes to leadership studies in several ways. First, the study expands on extant literature theorizingthe linkage between lifestyle behaviours and the formation of sense of self as occupants of the leadership role from anew angle. It contends that lifestyle behaviours such as athletic endeavours have become a prime site where businessleaders express creative narratives regarding an idealized view of themselves. Second, this study further advocates that theformation of sense of self of leaders is not a simple outcome of different forms of regulative discursive regime. Rather, thisprocess involves creative self-reflexive activities that address individuals’ personally held values, their distinctive pursuitsin becoming an idealized leader, relations with others, and some prevailing leadership notions that they believe to be closelyassociated with the nature of lifestyle behaviours in which they engage and commit. Third, this study confirms the notionthat the formation of the understanding of self of leaders is not only a function of verbal expressive devices, but that it alsoinvolves individuals’ performative strategies in ‘expressive control’ (e.g. Down & Reveley, 2009; Goffman, 1959). Thisthesis adds to understanding this point of view through a discussion of self-presentational practices in non-work relatedactivities. Finally and most importantly, this study suggests that the process of formation of the sense of self of businessleaders is expressive of meanings on personal, interpersonal and social dimensions in its own right. That is, through creatingnew self-meanings in micro-level practices in lifestyle behaviours, the occupants of the leadership role define the situationalcharacteristics (the leadership context), express intentions to enact the power feature of inclusion and exclusion of others;generate new understanding of the leadership role, and they reproduce and strengthen some prevailing leadership ideals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm University, 2017. , p. 295
Keywords [en]
sport, athleticism, self-expressive behaviours, self-presentation
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-34174Libris ID: 20200734ISBN: 978-91-7649-710-4 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-711-1 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-34174DiVA, id: diva2:1174219
Public defence
2017-04-20, Stockholm Business School, Stockholm, 13:45 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-01-15 Created: 2018-01-15 Last updated: 2018-01-15Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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