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Understanding sovereign leadership as a response to terrorism: A post-foundational analysis

Smolović Jones, Owain; Smolović Jones, Sanela; Grint, Keith


Sanela Smolović Jones

Keith Grint


This study seeks to better understand how notions of sovereign power as a response to terrorism are built and bolstered through use of the signifier ‘leadership’. Through a post-foundational analysis of the speeches, press conferences and writings of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, we theorise ‘sovereign leadership’ as the deployment of the signifier leadership in ways that foreclose language so as to normalise the discourse and acts of sovereign power. Our key finding is that sovereign leadership offers a (misleadingly) straightforward solution to the complex problem of terrorism through foreclosing language so that alternative responses are excluded. In exploring articulations of sovereign leadership, we illuminate its contingency, and therefore, also its contestability, within a system of discursive resources. We posit three foreclosing moments that are drawn upon to bolster the urgency, affective salience and justness of sovereign leadership: emergency, positivity and vulnerability. We conclude by reflecting on the implications of our study for interpreting articulations of leadership in everyday organisational and political life.


Smolović Jones, O., Smolović Jones, S., & Grint, K. (2020). Understanding sovereign leadership as a response to terrorism: A post-foundational analysis. Organization, 27(4), 537-556.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 14, 2019
Publication Date 2020-07
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2024
Journal Organization
Print ISSN 1350-5084
Electronic ISSN 1461-7323
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 4
Pages 537-556
Keywords Management of Technology and Innovation; Strategy and Management; General Business, Management and Accounting
Public URL