The fit, the fat, and the sick leader: exploring the relationship between leadership and health through the lens of embodiment
AffiliationManagement and Marketing
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2021-04-26.
© 2019 Dr. Peter Ghin
Over the past few decades, leadership studies research appears to have gradually warmed to the idea that the act of leading is not a purely cognitive, rational and disembodied act. Accordingly, management scholars have more systematically begun to look to the body to understand its significance in the study of leaders and leadership. My research continues this tradition by adopting the lens of embodiment to explore the relationship between leadership and health. In particular, I investigate three dimensions of leader embodiment - the fit body, the fat body, and the sick body – which I use as the basis with which to explore the ideal and ‘less than ideal’ body in organisational life. In creating these conceptual categories, I enable a nuanced account of how a leader’s health (or its absence) may become an important signifier of leadership. My findings illustrate the temporal and contested nature of athleticism amongst organisation leaders and demonstrate the ‘ordinariness’ of leaders’ bodies, being subject as they are to the same fleshly vicissitudes as all human bodies. I contextualise these findings within broader contemporary health and leadership discourses which tend to lionise the virtues of individuality, control, and self-management. This study contributes to the critical literature on embodiment and leadership, particularly the scholarship that has been concerned with the athleticisation of leadership, and also makes novel contributions to the study of stigma amongst organisational elites.
Keywordsbody, leadership, health, embodiment, fitness, illness, fatness
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