Leaders and Autobiographies: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Genre’s Impact on Leadership Discourse

Tone Weggeberg

Studenteropgave: Kandidatafhandlinger


In the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis numerous top-leaders have been attributed blame, as the crisis affected so many, so extensively. It can be argued that autobiographies have had a long history of acting as a medium for successful leaders to get the final word regarding controversies and allegations that affected them throughout their careers. But in a global business world where trust and authenticity appears to have diminished in value, what does the medium truly offer to the business leaders, or to the contribution of leadership discourse? The main question of the thesis is: How do the presumed authors of autobiographies attempt to influence the discourse on leadership? The guiding theoretical frame is the romance of leaders and leadership that exists in society. To narrow down the scope of the thesis, a sub-question has been added: What are the differences and similarities between leaders of established businesses and entrepreneurs? This part focuses on factors of identity, audience and use of the genre of autobiography that has affected how the books are constructed. As the topics evolve both texts and contexts, a critical discourse analysis has been applied as research design. The empirical part of the study is based on a narrative analysis of six autobiographies written by famous, American leaders, from backgrounds as CEOs of large companies or as entrepreneurs. Findings show tendencies of how ideological identities are developed based on a construction of coinciding stories to the wanted identities, in order to impress the audience and ultimately change reader’s perception of them as people and leaders. A comparison between the two groups of leaders further reveal a tendency of the two groups varying in the underlying goals of changing reader perceptions. Entrepreneurs appear to want to improve their own image and reputation in order to improve company image. Former CEOs from well-established companies appear to want to change audience perception in order to improve own image and reputation. The findings suggest the medium exploits the romantic view on leaders as a strategy of impression management.

UddannelserCand.soc.oie Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling
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