Leadership through crisis: a media discourse analysis of banking CEOs


Liu, Helena


Since mid-2008, the 'global financial crisis' (GFC) has thrown economies into heightened states of anxiety and uncertainty. One consequence of this has been that business leaders have experienced increased media attention. In some cases, this has led to shifts in how their leadership images are portrayed. In the Australian business environment, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) within the banking sector have received heightened media scrutiny as they personify and embody their organisations, rendering the GFC's impact on the economy more identifiable to consumers of the media (Fowler, 1991). Existing research on the construction of leadership image has highlighted the role of the media in producing and negotiating representations of business leaders. With readership spanning employees, investors, and company boards, how the leader is portrayed in the media has significant consequences for his or her reception by these organisational stakeholders and in turn the company's share price and performance (Shields & Harvey, 2010). This paper explores the interplay between the social construction of leadership and the GFC in the media. The paper contributes to our understanding of how media representations of CEOs in the Australian banking sector have changed before and after the GFC, while also recognising the socially constructed nature of the external context (Grint, 2005). In addition the paper shows how the GFC itself is framed discursively in order to suit particular agendas. Traditionally, discourse analysis has focussed primarily on the verbal use of language and therefore taken a 'mono-modal' approach (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2001). This study adopts a multi-modal approach that allows for the systematic examination of both the verbal and visual elements in print media texts (Fowler, 1991; Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996) and in this way has the potential to enhance existing understanding of leadership image construction.

Publication year


Publication type

Conference paper


Crises, corruption, character and change, the 9th International Conference on Organisational Discourse (ICOD 2010), Amsterdam, Netherlands, 14-16 July 2010


Cardiff University


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