This veteran communication professor's "must-read" work has been named the 2007 Book of the Year by the National Communication Association's organizational communication division. She is also the co-author of the Jossey-Bass management series book, "The Art of Framing: Managing the Language of Leadership," the 1997 recipient of the NCA's Best Book Award.
Communication professor Gail Fairhurst's latest book is creating global buzz – and winning honors in the process.
Fairhurst's "Discursive Leadership: In Conversation with Leadership Psychology" has been named the Book of the Year by the National Communication Association's organizational communication division. She receives the award at the NCA's Nov. 15-18 convention in Chicago.
|Gail Fairhurst, professor of communication|
Communication professor Linda L. Putnam of Texas A&M University says of "Discursive Leadership": "This book goes well beyond any other text in positioning discursive leadership in conversation with leadership psychology. Boldly embracing the strengths of both perspectives, Gail Fairhurst creates a sophisticated, comprehensive and cutting-edge view of the field … It is clearly a must-read for organizational scholars in leadership, organizational communication and organizational behavior."
Fairhurst, who earned her PhD at the University of Oregon, has served as a process consultant, executive coach and trainer for varied organizations including Procter and Gamble, Boeing, the U.S. Air Force, General Electric, Kroger and Cincinnati Bell.
She is also the co-author of the Jossey-Bass management series book, "The Art of Framing: Managing the Language of Leadership," the 1997 recipient of the NCA's Best Book Award.
"I appreciate it every time I get an award – I don't take it for granted," Fairhurst said.
Q) Why is this a good time for this book, and conversation about this view of leadership?
A) The study of leadership has been dominated by psychology for a very long time. Leadership psychology is the 800-pound gorilla in the living room – it's just huge, and a communication view of leadership has really been on the rise. There are alternative lenses, and each choice presents a different way to view leadership. The psychological view is more cognitive, focused on the individual. The communication view is much more oriented to what happens when that leader and the followers mix it up, their social interaction in all of its messy details and the dynamism that can happen when folks come together in social interaction experiences.
Q) How do your many roles, including teacher, writer and coach, meld?
A) What I tell my students is that my writing, teaching and coaching all feed into one another. My ability to research is driven by questions students ask, and problems executives present – all three pieces are so intertwined. I love to do executive coaching. I don't do a huge amount because I don't have the time that a lot of independent coaches can put into it, but it definitely impacts my research and teaching.
Q) What are some of the persistent problems in terms of perceptions of "good" or "strong" leadership?
A) In some ways, that's in the eye of the beholder. You can get two leadership scholars to agree, or two who disagree. I think that's what's so fascinating about leadership: The world in which we live presents increasingly complex problems. So many skills are required on the part of a leader. Some do well; some don't … with communication scholars, you expect that disagreement. Leadership gets constructed in communication. That back and forth that takes place is all part of it. That's why I love being a communication scholar. It really captures the dynamism associated with this construct – leadership doesn't have to be the same thing today as yesterday.
Q) You have been with the UC Department of Communication for almost 30 years and won the 2003 McMicken College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Award for Distinguished Research. Are you still excited about your work here?
A) In our last program review, we were ranked No. 1 in the country for our master's and No. 2 for public relations. Our undergraduate program, with the development of public relations, is terrific. We have a great group of faculty who are genuinely enthused about the future of the department. It's absolutely a good time to be here.