The language of power and authority in leadership

Jean Etienne Joullié*, Anthony M. Gould, Robert Spillane, Sylvain Luc

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this article is to provide insight into how leaders obtain their power through language use. The thesis defended is that, at its best, the language of power in leadership activates specific linguistic functions in prescribed ways. This thesis draws on three subordinate arguments. First, to the extent that leadership is a relationship resting on voluntary obedience, it is through a process of authorisation that leaders obtain their power. Second, the way language functions are instantiated in communication determines whether social interactions are authoritative or authoritarian. The view advanced is that noble language characterises the former, base language the latter. Third and consequently, the power of leaders develops from their use of noble language. Contrasting examples illuminate this article's thesis. An agenda for leadership research and education is then outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101491
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date24 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Authoritarian
  • Authority
  • Language functions
  • Power


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