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Dr Owain Smolovic Jones

Profile summary

Professional biography

Owain Smolović Jones is Director of the OU's Research into Employment, Empowerment and Futures (REEF) academic centre of excellence and a leadership scholar. The centre has a particular focus on the implications for the future of work of the climate emergency, precarity and new technologies. Owain’s research primarily draws on political theory to illuminate the operation of leadership within organisations. His research to date has largely focused on the dynamics of developing collective and democratic forms of leadership across a range of organisations and he is particularly interested in how such a focus can help societies transition in just ways to a green economy. Owain utilises an ethnographic approach, examining the language, materiality and aesthetics of leadership practice, drawing out the ethics, affect and power at work. Relatedly, he has theorised collective forms of resistance leadership from a dramaturgical perspective, drawing on empirical analysis of the Labour Party in the UK. His conceptual work on leadership has focused on the ‘romanticization’ of the discourses of individual and collective forms of leadership, exploring the implications of such constructions for disempowering people and groups. Such a preoccupation has also informed his critical and empirical exploration of the rhetoric of sovereign articulations of leadership, which he has used as a means for reflecting on the lost democratic potential at work when notions of leadership are evoked in public parlance. His recent research has focused on the political dynamics of implementing gender quotas in the UK Labour Party and upon the leadership offered by unionised precarious workers. He has published papers in esteemed organisation studies journals such as Human Relations, Organization Studies, Organization, Management Learning and Leadership. 

Research interests

Owain’s research primarily focuses on the material, aesthetic and discursive dimensions of leadership practice and theory. He is particularly interested in how grassroots and political organisations develop and practice leadership – especially within the environmental and labour movements.
A list of his publications is available here:



Dissensual Leadership: Rethinking democratic leadership with Jacques Rancière (2020-10-26)
Barthold, Charles; Checchi, Marco; Imas, Miguel and Smolovic Jones, Owain
Organization ((Early Access))

Theorising gender desegregation as political work: The case of the Welsh Labour Party (2020)
Smolović Jones, Owain; Smolović Jones, Sanela; Taylor, Scott and Yarrow, Emily
Gender, Work and Organization ((Early access))

‘I Wanted More Women in, but . . .’: Oblique Resistance to Gender Equality Initiatives (2020)
Smolović Jones, Owain; Smolović Jones, Sanela; Taylor, Scott and Yarrow, Emily
Work, Employment and Society ((Early Access))

Understanding sovereign leadership as a response to terrorism: A post-foundational analysis (2019)
Smolovic Jones, Owain; Smolovic Jones, Nela and Grint, Keith
Organization ((Early Access))

Theorizing dramaturgical resistance leadership from the leadership campaigns of Jeremy Corbyn (2019)
Sinha, Paresha; Smolovic Jones, Owain and Carroll, Brigid
Human Relations ((Early Access))

‘No More Heroes’: Critical Perspectives on Leadership Romanticism (2018-11-01)
Collinson, David; Smolović Jones, Owain and Grint, Keith
Organization Studies, 39(11) (pp. 1625-1647)

Being more with less: Exploring the flexible political leadership identities of government ministers (2018-08-01)
Lees-Marshment, Jennifer and Smolović Jones, Owain
Leadership, 14(4) (pp. 460-482)

Mapping the aesthetics of leadership development through participant perspectives (2018-04-01)
Carroll, Brigid and Smolovic Jones, Owain
Management Learning, 49(2) (pp. 187-203)

Putting the discourse to work: On outlining a praxis of democratic leadership development (2016-09-01)
Smolovic-Jones, Nela; Smolovic Jones, Owain; Winchester, Nik and Grint, Keith
Management Learning, 47(4) (pp. 424-442)

Public leadership development facilitation and the crossroads blues (2015-09-30)
Smolovic Jones, Owain; Grint, Keith and Cammock, Peter
Management Learning, 46(4) (pp. 391-411)

Promoting better public services leadership: an appreciative critique (2012-08)
Jackson, Brad and Smolovic Jones, Owain
Policy Quarterly, 8(3) (pp. 34-40)

What is leadership: person, result, position or process, or all or none of these? (2016-10-04)
Grint, Keith; Smolovic Jones, Owain and Holt, Clare
In: Storey, John; Hartley, Jean; Denis, Jean-Louis; t'Hart, Paul and Ulrich, Dave eds. The Routledge Companion to Leadership (pp. 3-20)
ISBN : 9781138825574 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Seeing leadership: becoming sophisticated consumers of leadership (2015-05-06)
Smolovic Jones, Owain and Jackson, Brad
In: Carroll, Brigid; Ford, Jackie and Taylor, Scott eds. Leadership: Contemporary Critical Perspectives (pp. 253-271)
ISBN : 9781446294376 | Publisher : Sage | Published : London

Essay: authentic leadership and history (2013-10-31)
Smolović Jones, Owain and Grint, Keith
In: Ladkin, Donna and Spiller, Chellie eds. Authentic Leadership: Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences. New Horizons in Leadership Studies Series (pp. 21-38)
ISBN : 978-1-78100-637-5 | Publisher : Edward Elgar | Published : Cheltenham

Theorising moral-collaborative leadership, or, direction-less-than-domination: Gramsci and beyond (2014)
Smolovic-Jones, S.; Smolovic Jones, O.; Winchester, N. and Grint, K.
In : 13th International Studying Leadership Conference (14-16 Dec 2014, The Copenhagen Business School)

A game of thrones: power plays and politics in public collaborative leadership. (2013-07)
Smolovic Jones, Owain and Grint, Keith
In : 8th International Conference in Critical Management Studies: Extending the Limits of Neo-Liberal Capitalism (10-12 Jul 2013, Manchester)

Coming up for air: degrees of freedom in local political leadership (2013-04-22)
Smolovic Jones, Owain; Grint, Keith and Holt, Clare
In : ILA 2013 Oceania Conference: Building the R&D of Leadership (22-24 Apr 2013, Auckland, NZ)

The desiring gaze of political leadership (2013)
Smolovic Jones, Owain; Jackson, Brad and Grint, Keith
In : NZOZ Political Marketing and Management Mini Conference (31 Aug 2013, Auckland, NZ)

Participant perspectives: constructing the experience of leadership development (2012-06)
Carroll, Brigid; Smolovic Jones, Owain; Kennedy, Fiona and Francoeur, Joline
In : 4th Annual Developing Leadership Capacity Conference: Leadership for New Times: Where now for leadership development? (28-29 Jun 2012, Exeter, UK)

An exploration of the value of individualism within a critically-focused process of leadership development (2011-07)
Smolovic Jones, Owain
In : 3rd Developing Leadership Capacity Conference: Leadership Development and Life Experience: Reflections on Becoming Leaders (14-15 Jul 2011, Bristol, UK)