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Visceral behaviours and leadership: a dark side of boardroom life?

Sheard, G., Kakabadse, N. and Kakabadse, A. (2013) Visceral behaviours and leadership: a dark side of boardroom life? Journal of Management Development, 32 (1). pp. 18-35. ISSN 0262-1711

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1108/02621711311286900


Purpose – Characteristics of leaders whose behaviour is visceral include taking action based on instinct rather than intellect and exhibiting coarse, base and often negative emotions. Despite the challenge of precisely defining the nature of visceral behaviour, the purpose of this paper is to provide insight into this less attractive side of boardroom life. Design/methodology/approach – Following a literature review of the research into the negative behaviour leaders exhibit, the paper highlights four forms of visceral behaviour based on focused and intimate qualitative case studies involving the experiences of those on the receiving end of that behaviour within a boardroom context. Findings – Based on interviews with an international sample of five chief executive officers (CEOs), plus three subordinates with substantial profit and loss responsibility, the study reveals a distinctly human experience from which no one is exempt. The idiosyncratic nature of the visceral behaviour experienced resulted in each study participant's unique experience. The authors conclude that leaders need to adopt specific measures in order to control and reduce the darker human tendencies. Research limitations/implications – The experiences of study participants are presented in four case studies, providing insight into their experiences whilst also protecting their identity. The study participants were drawn from a sample of companies operating globally within a single sector of the manufacturing industry. The concepts the authors present require validating in other organisations with different demographic profiles. Originality/value – The paper presents a model based on two dimensions – choice and level of mastery – that provides the reader with insight into the forms of visceral behaviour to which leaders succumb. Insight enables us to offer managers strategic suggestions to guard against visceral behaviour and assist them in mitigating its worst aspects, in both those with whom they work and themselves.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Marketing and Reputation
ID Code:36974
Uncontrolled Keywords:Leadership; Chief executives; Behaviour; Visceral behaviour; Hubris; Temptation; Discretion.

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