5 May 2016

Venue: Lancaster University

Ethics and Embodied Leadership


Thursday May 5th 2016


ESRC Sixth Seminar in the Seminar Series Ethical Leadership: Philosophical and Spiritual Approaches to Organization hosted by Lancaster University Management School.

 Convened by Dr. David Knights (Professor of Organization Studies, Lancaster University Management School and the Open University Business School), this 6th seminar of the ESRC Seminar Series on Ethical Leadership is entitled Ethics and Embodied Leadership. Here we will explore the relationship between ethics, embodied relations and leadership practices as well as the possibility for an ethics of embodied engagement, perhaps to displace traditional conceptions of ethics as merely complying with rules or norms. Speakers are: Jane Douglas – Director, Learning to Inspire; Simon Mitchell (MBA) - Chief Executive Officer of LinuxIT;  Mollie Painter Morland (PhD)  - Professor of Ethics and Organisation at Nottingham Business School.


 The seminar follows the format of the previous events, where there are a small number of speakers and a small group of participants (around 30) to maximise discussion. Participants come from all disciplinary backgrounds and we welcome especially early career researchers and non-academics working in public or private sectors.

 Series Outline

The series comprises 9 one-day seminars over 3 years. The timetable is structured to allow extensive discussion and interaction. Each seminar will include papers from external contributors plus cumulative discussion throughout the day. Alongside academic engagement, practitioners and other stakeholders will be invited to discuss the research papers in the light of their own experiences. The aim is to stimulate debate and innovative thinking about how to develop policies and practices for ethical leadership and its development based on self-transformation and individual agency as alternatives to mere rule compliance. Each seminar will bring together senior researchers, graduate students and early career researchers from a range of disciplines and national contexts, together with representatives of employers (including SMEs) and professional service organisations. The series is organised by a multi-disciplinary team led by Professor Chris Mabey (Middlesex University) in conjunction with other academic partners and supported by practitioners.

 The seminar is free to attend but you must register, as places will be limited.  

To register please click on this link:


 ESRC Sixth Seminar on Ethics and Embodied Leadershiphosted by the Dept. of Leadership and Management, Lancaster University Management School.

Thursday May 5th 2016

Of recent time, interest in our first focus of leadership has grown exponentially as socio-political, have taken precedence over technical, solutions to organizational and management problems.  Also since the dotcom bubble burst and the global financial crisis, there has been a greater concern with our second focus that of ethical leadership.  Our third focus of the body and embodiment lags behind both of these and the social sciences more generally there has been a considerable challenge the separation of mind from body and the domination of cognitive, linguistic and symbolic discourses over concerns with the body and other material relations.  Yet if leadership is largely about enrolling, inspiring and mobilizing support for specific projects and programmes, it has to involve not just cognitive conscious individual subjects but also personal and collective bodies and affects as well as the space in between them.  David Knights

Programme of the day:



Description & Notes


10:00- 11.00





Welcome & Overview

David Knights

Introduction to Programme for the day


A Personal Voyage of Self-Discovery

Simon Mitchell

In 2012 LinuxIT was in disarray. It was suffering financially, key workers were leaving in their droves and the senior management team were in conflict. Simon’s personal life was blighted by fear and a vicious cycle of destructive behaviours but now no longer. Simon will share a personal voyage of self-discovery in which he has embraced a spiritual practice and a leadership philosophy that have brought about remarkable transformations for himself and the corporation.




The force of relational space: implications for leadership

Mollie Painter-Morland

Are leaders ‘in control’ of their organizations? If they are: how? If not: who or what is? In this presentation we will explore the relational space that tacitly directs organizational life, and as such, ‘leads’ leaders, followers and institutions.



Round table discussion

Guided by initial key questions









The path to authenticity – A personal journey

Jane Douglas

Drawing on personal experience of leading a small business, and as a development specialist helping others to lead more authentically, Jane will present her experience on why self-knowledge is the critical factor in leadership development. She will share how becoming an authentic leader was a return to her core humanity and talk about the role ego played in that journey. Touching on the key stages of self-transformation that she (and those she has worked alongside) went through, she will end with which virtues, when adopted as a practice, have proven most useful in enabling embodied ethical engagement and the exploration of shared meanings.



Affecting Leadership? Searching for embodied ethics in research and practice


David Knights

Leadership studies often ignore, or at best downplay, the embodied nature of leadership. However, recently there has been a growing interest in the body and leadership and occasionally, its extension to encompass ethics. Exploring this literature, I am struck by how the body can be seen as important to leadership and yet discussed in a rather disembodied manner.  Also despite an increased focus on followers, there is still a tendency for leadership to be seen as the property of a single person, and I will conclude this presentation by imagining the possibility of leadership practice without leaders.  


Round table discussion

Guided by initial key questions



Plenary discussion


Insights and observations from the day


Close & Networking

Afternoon Tea



David Knights(PhD)is Professor of Organization Studies at Lancaster University. He spent several years in commerce and in self-employment before entering academia as a mature student. His research interests cover: management control, power, identity and resistance; gender and diversity studies; Financial Services consumption, education and regulation. He is currently researching academics and business schools, the global financial crisis, the body and embodiment, and veterinary surgeons.

 Jane Douglas is director of Learning to Inspire – a development company based in Chester. Over the past 15 years the company has won large government contracts for the development of leaders within SMEs. Specialising in transformational and transpersonal leadership, Jane’s interest is in understanding the nature and process and self-transformation and the role self-knowledge has in developing effective and authentic leaders. She is particularly fascinated by what Joseph Campbell calls ‘the patterns that connect’ and the idea that the journey of authentic leadership is a spiritual journey back to our core virtues. Partnering with Chester University, Leaning to Inspire has developed several postgraduate programmes designed to be delivered directly to practicing leaders in the workplace and, as such, has gathered a wealth of experience about what works in practice.

 Simon Mitchell (MBA) is non-technical Chief Executive Officer of LinuxIT. It is important to point out that Simon is non-technical because LinuxIT’s value proposition is deeply technical and it may seem strange that a deeply technical, knowledge intensive firm such as LinuxIT should be led by someone without those skills. Well the truth is it works for reasons of his commitment to a flat, decentralised organisational structure in which LinuxIT’s vision is built on the individual visions of, and realised through, an incredibly committed, creative and joyous workforce and because of other leadership values that will be elaborated in the talk. Prior to LinuxIT, Simon worked in Strategic Account Management and Sales Leadership positions within various IT organisations including InstallShield, Compuware, Numega and Arrow Electronics.

 Mollie Painter Morland (PhD) is Professor of Ethics and Organisation at Nottingham Business School. She serves as co-editor of Springer’s Issues in Business Ethics series and as the Africa Director of ABIS (The Academy of Business in Society). She has authored a number of books, most recently "Business Ethics and Continental Philosophy" with René ten Bos (Cambridge University Press, 2011), also translated into Dutch as “Bedrijfsethiek. Filosofische perspectieven”,  BOOM 2013. Her specific research interests include: European philosophy and ethics, relational leadership, ethics in the media and communication industries, and integrated reporting.



ESRC Partners and small group facilitators:

Prof Chris Mabey, Middlesex University

Prof. David Knights, Lancaster University

Dr. Peter Simpson, University of the West of England (UWE)

Prof. Jonathan Gosling, University of Exeter

Dr. Merv Conroy, University of Birmingham

Prof. Peter Case, UWE

Anita Gulati, Carol Jarvis, UWE

Clare Rigg, Institute of Technology, Tralee

Dr. Hugo Gaggiotti, UWE

Prof. Andrew Henley, Aberystwyth University

Tim Harle, Sarum College


Project Officer

Sara de Marco, Middlesex University



Files available for downloading

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