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Dissertation Abstract

Leadership Aesthetics: Moments of Enactment

Michael Patrick
March 2012

This study examined the phenomenon of leadership aesthetics within moments of leader enactment. Three chief executives and their respective organizations were observed in the Southeastern United States. Their fields included church ministry, theatrical performance, healthcare-professions that engage the body and mind aesthetically. In constructing evocative, thick descriptions of leader moments, the study utilized an autoethnographic, narrative-based, multimethod approach including constructivist grounded theory methodologies in the sense-making process. Leader presence and performance were observed. Field data were analyzed with open aesthetic codes to form an impressionistic, aesthetic profile of each leader. The first contextual finding in this situated study is that moments of leader enactment were imbued with rich aesthetic textures. The aesthetic nature of these moments of enactment also appeared to serve and reinforce perceptual bonds between the leader and followers. A second finding was that leader aesthetics appeared distinct in the presence and performance among each of the three leaders, and those differences were evident in what the leaders and others perceived as aligning with each leader's strengths. A third finding was that among the unique aesthetic patterns that made up individual leader profiles, some of the aesthetic qualities expressed appeared on the order of virtuosity. The theoretical implications of these three findings, taken together within the limits of this study, assert that moments of leader enactment, embodied in leader presence and performance, are enriched with distinctive aesthetic qualities and form a profile that also reflects the leader's own strengths and serves to aesthetically connect the leader with followers. Additional research may serve to establish the durability of aesthetic qualities and patterns in a leader's aesthetic profile.