The masculinisation of ethical leadership dis/embodiment

Helena Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This article argues that while ethical leadership in mainstream theorising is assumed to be a cognitive exercise, leaders’ bodies in fact play a significant role in the social construction of ethical leadership. Their bodies (both their exposure and concealment) become particularly potent when leaders are depicted via the interplay between visual and verbal modes in the media. In order to extend current understandings of ethical leadership, this study employs a discourse analytic approach to examine how visual and verbal devices convey ethical leadership for two of Australia’s major bank chief executive officers—John Stewart and Ralph Norris—before and during the global financial crisis. Based on the analysis, this article demonstrates that ethical leadership is constructed through the confluence of elite and working class masculinities that is multimodally embodied and disembodied. The article suggests that what it means to be an ethical leader is invariably informed by class-based patriarchal norms that can serve to reinforce the masculinisation of ethics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-278
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Early online date29 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


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