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Title:The linguistic foundations of leadership through actionable consensus
Author(s):Miller, Bradley
Director of Research:Bhatt, Rakesh M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bhatt, Rakesh M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Terkourafi, Marina; Bednar, Michael K.; LeBaron, Curtis
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Actionable consensus
Abstract:This dissertation explores the dynamics of consensus building and leadership during a consulting organization’s Senior Leadership Team meetings. By incorporating ethnography with discourse and corpus analyses, I focus on the discursive strategies which drive building actionable consensus. In so doing, I show the linguistic and communicative resources employed in building actionable consensus, allowing for a more complete understanding of both team dynamics and leadership. A large degree of scholarly work has focused on the language of leadership in business settings. These studies fall largely into two camps, one focusing on the display of leader-like identities through discourse and another focusing on the emergence of leadership as a semiotic action which is co-constructed in and through interaction. Both camps have areas to contribute to this literature, though both also have their drawbacks. This study examines both camps and narrows down the focus of leadership to include the building of actionable consensus through interactions. In this dissertation, I address the gaps in studies of the language of leadership by focusing on the ways in which actionable consensus is built. This utilizes methodology developed by Wodak et al. (2011), which incorporates discourse analysis with ethnography and corpus linguistics. By drawing from both quantitative and qualitative analysis, I emphasize a holistic view of leadership as the act of leading, while simultaneously focusing on how that leadership occurs within the context of building actionable consensus. The data for this analysis is drawn from 13 audio-recordings of Senior Leadership Team meetings of a consulting organization. The team is composed of 15 people, each of whom plays a role of leadership within the larger consulting organization. These meetings are primarily conducted for strategic planning and organizational improvements. In addition to these audio-recordings, the study also includes extensive ethnographic and biographical observations of the organization and the individual participants. Appealing to both linguistic and leadership literature, I argue that leadership is directly observable in instances where actionable consensus is built and achieved. Using Wodak et al. (2011) and their methodology for examining the building of actionable consensus, I highlight the linguistic and communicative features which are discursively utilized. I show that these features are co-constructed in discourse and not exclusive to any one individual. I further argue that leadership is the discursive act of proposing a solution to a problem which is subsequently accepted (consensus) by other members of the group. This dissertation shows the ways in which using a combination of Action Implicative Discourse Analysis, corpus linguistics, and ethnographic analysis can offer sufficient theoretical mileage to analyze the co-creation of actionable consensus and the moves of leadership that occur therein. Future research can take a number of different approaches. One suggestion is research which will better describe the role of topic of discussion and its impact on the five discursive strategies discussed in this work. Another potential line of inquiry would examine the role(s) taken on by a single individual, asking how they use the discursive strategies based on varying contexts and conversations.
Issue Date:2017-04-20
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Brad B. Miller
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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