Making up Leaders: Reconfiguring the Executive Student through Profiling, Texts and Conversations in a Leadership Development Programme

Frank Meier*, Brigid Carroll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Are leaders born or made? In this study of contemporary leadership development programmes, we find that leaders are not only made but also – in Ian Hacking’s sense – made up. Such programmes increasingly employ practices like personality profiling, appraisals, feedback and coaching aimed at creating knowledge about individual leaders in order for them to develop. The effects of these practices on participants have been theorized in terms of identity regulation and resistance, yet in our view the situated accomplishments of authority and identity remain inadequately theorized. This study follows a number of such practices as texts and conversations, and shows how a programme participant’s leader identity becomes authorized and acknowledged as participants and instructors ventriloquize texts in conversations. We theorize this as identity reconfiguration, as it entails the continual staging and authorizing of diverse figures. Our findings have implications for the relation between governmentality studies and studies of texts and conversations in leadership development programmes as well as for how we approach agency and context in this realm.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1226-1248
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 4. September 2019


  • Agency
  • CCO
  • Texts
  • Conversations
  • Leader identity
  • Leadership development programmes
  • Performativity
  • Personality profiling
  • Power

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