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Poetry and leadership in light of ambiguity and logic of appropriateness

Xing, Y. and Liu, Y. (2015) Poetry and leadership in light of ambiguity and logic of appropriateness. Management and Organization Review, 11 (4). pp. 763-793. ISSN 1740-8784

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/mor.2015.18


This paper explores the relationship between poetry and leadership - in particular, how business leaders might leverage poetry in practice. Drawing on the theoretical lenses of logic of appropriateness and ambiguity, we suggest a conceptual model to understand the multilayered meaning of poetry, noting that poetry has four layers of meaning: the superficial meaning, the poet’s evocative meaning, the reader’s recasting into a modern situation, and the recipient’s interpretation. Using the storytelling research method, we collected leadership narrative stories that indicate poetry as an effective communication tool in practicing leadership. From these data, we identify four approaches that leaders use to apply the multilayered meaning of poetry in contemporary business practice: drawing lessons from poets’ experience through critical interpretation of the poem, inspiring leaders’ heroic spirits, guiding leaders’ rules of behavior, and adopting poetry as a tactic to influence others. Our study contributes to the argument of ambiguity as a source of intelligence and illuminates how poetry as an artistic form of story facilitates contemporary leadership practice in light of the logic of appropriateness framework.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Leadership, Organisations and Behaviour
ID Code:81621
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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