English Research Seminar 26.04.2018

26. April 2018

Vortrag Dr. Stephanie Schnurr (University of Warwick, Centre for Applied Linguistics): Exploring ‘another side’ of internal leadership communication through self-denigrating humour

Zeit: 18:15- 20:00 Uhr

Ort: WU, Gebäude D2, Eingang D, 2.OG, Raum D2.2.228


This paper explores ‘another side’ of internal leadership communication by focusing on leaders’ use of self-denigrating humour. In contrast to external, and often public, performances of leadership (e.g. in speeches, interviews, talks, and letters), this talk looks at how leadership is done ‘backstage’, in supposedly mundane everyday workplace interactions, away from the public limelight. I will discuss several examples of authentic internal leadership communication to illustrate that in these everyday interactions with other members of their team, leaders often use self-denigrating humour and portray themselves in rather ‘un-leader-like’ fashion as incapable, awkward, naïve, as well as approachable, humane, and humble.

These episodes of self-denigrating humour – whether in the form of an amusing anecdote or a witty comment – construct alternative views of leadership, which challenge heroic conceptualisations that depict leaders as ‘the solo, all-powerful hero’ (Holmes 2017). Through a focus on self-denigrating humour, we can thus gain valuable insights into the complexities and diversities of leadership, which often remain overlooked by mainstream approaches.


Holmes, Janet. 2017. Leadership and change management: Examining gender, cultural and ‘hero leader’ stereotypes. In Cornelia Illie and Stephanie Schnurr (eds) Challenging Leadership Stereotypes: Discourse and Power Management. London: Springer.

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