Leadership on Social Media: A Qualitative Case Study of World-class Chefs' Instagram Accounts

Ann-Sophie Gross

Student thesis: Master thesis


Digital communication has become highly relevant in today’s world, not only but especially in the last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Social media, such as Instagram, is an important part of digital communication. Communication is also an essential element of leadership; there is no leadership without communication. Therefore, the digital communication context must also impact leadership. I pursue the assumption that leaders are active on social media not only as private individuals but as leaders. Hence, leadership is present on social media. I assume that this does not only applies to well-known political or spiritual leaders or famous CEOs and it extends to one of the most popular social media apps worldwide, Instagram, which is not usually associated with leaders. To investigate this assumption, I set up a qualitative case study to research how world-class chefs represent themselves as leaders on Instagram. For the case study, I selected the top 15 culinary leaders from the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and analyzed their personal Instagram accounts. The thesis examines the representation of leadership in relation to a transformational leadership perspective and considers a process-relational perspective. The main findings of this thesis are fourfold: First, I present a detailed overview of the similarities and differences within the group of chefs in regard to their Instagram accounts and communication on Instagram. Second, each chef was analyzed by how often and through which topics they communicate. This enables the third step, i.e. applying the established transformational leadership framework to analyze how relevant transformational leadership is on Instagram and how the chefs communicate this leadership style. Fourth, I investigate the different interaction levels of the chefs with their followers. The final discussion dives deeper into questions my analysis and findings point towards: Is it possible to claim that leadership is represented on Instagram? What is the relevance of Instagram as a social media platform for representing leadership? How does the leaders’ representation on social media impact leadership communication?

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages100