I was introduced to leadership research in 2007 at the University of Sydney. Through my Honours, I was initiated into discourse analysis by examining how CEOs framed their failures. The resulting thesis, When Leaders Fail, went on to be awarded First Class. My love for research was cemented on Valentine’s Day, 2008, when I was invited to present at a leadership and discourse seminar, which eventually led to an invited publication in Management Communication Quarterly and my enrolment in a PhD.
I began my PhD in July 2008 just as the global financial crisis emerged in Australia. I turned my attention to the local banking sector and examined how authenticity was constructed among the major bank CEOs in the media. I was awarded my degree in August 2012.
Shortly after I graduated, I joined Swinburne University of Technology as a Research Fellow, where my work explored ethical forms of leadership in banking and philanthropy. Within my first year, I accepted an ongoing position at Swinburne Business School, before joining University of Technology Sydney as a Senior Lecturer in 2016.
As I have grown into my own as a scholar, my research has taken more of a critical slant. My work attends to the gendered, raced, and classed nature of how we have come to understand ‘leadership’. Some of my recent projects are detailed below:
solo projectMy study explores the politics of leadership theorising, in particular, the power dynamics that shape leadership knowledge production. It aims to pull back the curtain to how 'leadership' is brought into being by academics. My project was funded by the Management Discipline Group 2016 Grant Scheme.
with helena heizmannWe are fascinated by the rising interest in sustainability leadership. Despite its laudable goals to harness leadership towards ecologically sustainable practices, our study examines the tendencies to romanticise leadership as a panacea for environmental sustainability. Our project is funded by the Management Discipline Group 2016 Grant Scheme.
Leadership and Race
solo projectMy study follows from my interrogation of whiteness in Leadership. In search of leadership where it is often overlooked, I conducted interviews with 21 Chinese Australian leaders across government and business. Emerging from my study are narratives of resistance, self-determination, and sensuality currently in the process of being written. My project was funded by the Faculty of Business and Law 2014 Grants Scheme.
with christopher bakerOur study was inspired by the heroic portrayals of Twiggy Forrest in the media following his decision to join The Giving Pledge. We conducted visual and verbal analyses of 18 Australian philanthropists in the media and found that they are depicted as ethical leaders via three paradoxical identities: Aristocratic Battlers; Caring Controllers; and Publicity-Shy Celebrities. Our project was funded by the Faculty of Business and Enterprise 2013 Grants Scheme.
Heizmann, H. and Liu, H. (forthcoming), ‘Becoming green, becoming leaders: Identity narratives in sustainability leadership development’, Management Learning.
Liu, H. and Pechenkina, K. (2017), ‘Innovation-by-numbers: An autoethnography of innovation as violence’, Culture & Organization.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘Just the servant: An intersectional critique of servant leadership’, Journal of Business Ethics.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘Undoing whiteness: The Dao of anti-racist diversity practice’, Gender, Work & Organization, 24(5), pp. 457–471.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘Beneath the white gaze: Strategic self-Orientalism among Chinese Australians’, Human Relations, 70(7), pp. 781–804.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘The masculinisation of ethical leadership dis/embodiment’, Journal of Business Ethics, 144(2), pp. 263–278.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘Sensuality as subversion: Doing masculinity with Chinese Australian professionals’, Gender, Work & Organization, 24(2), pp. 194–212.
Liu, H., Cutcher, L., and Grant D. (2017), ‘Authentic leadership in context: An analysis of banking CEO narratives during the global financial crisis’, Human Relations, 70(6), pp. 694–724.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘Reimagining ethical leadership as a relational, contextual and political practice’, Leadership, 13(3), pp. 343–367.
Liu, H. and Baker, C. (2016), ‘White Knights: Leadership as the heroicisation of whiteness’, Leadership, 12(4), pp. 420–448.
Liu, H. and Pechenkina, K. (2016), ‘Staying quiet or rocking the boat? An autoethnography of organisational visual white supremacy’, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 35(3), pp. 186–204.
Liu, H. and Baker, C. (2016), ‘Ordinary aristocrats: The discursive construction of philanthropists as ethical leaders’, Journal of Business Ethics, 133(2), pp. 261–277.
Liu, H. (2015), ‘Constructing the GFC: Australian banking leaders during the financial “crisis”’, Leadership, 11(4), pp. 424–450.
Liu, H., Cutcher, L., and Grant D. (2015), ‘Doing authenticity: The gendered construction of authentic leadership’, Gender, Work & Organization, 22(3), pp. 237–255.
Liu, H. and McGrath-Champ, S. (2014), ‘“Inspired by Business”: A case of mentoring among low socio-economic students’, International Studies in Widening Participation, 1(1), pp. 2–14.
Fee, A., McGrath-Champ, S., and Liu, H. (2013), ‘Human resources and expatriate evacuation: A conceptual model’, Journal of Global Mobility, 1(3), pp. 246–263.
Liu, H. (2010), ‘When leaders fail: A typology of failures and framing strategies’, Management Communication Quarterly, 24(2), pp. 232–259.
Liu, H. (2018), ‘Leadership from the margins: Practising inclusivity with “outsiders within”’ in S. Adapa and A. Sheridan (eds), Inclusive Leadership: Negotiating Gendered Spaces (pp. 1–20), Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘Redeeming difference in CMS through anti-racist feminisms’ in A. Pullen, N. Harding, and M. Phillips (eds), Dialogues in CMS Volume 3: Queer Theorists and Feminists Debate the Future of CMS (pp. 39–56), Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.
Liu, H. (2016), ‘A fairytale career: Media representations of Australia’s first female banking CEO’ in C. Elliott, V. Stead, S. Mavin, and J. Williams (eds), Gender, Media, & Organization: Changing Mis(s)representations of Women Leaders and Managers (pp. 49–62), Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Heizmann, H. and Liu, H. (2017), ‘Becoming green, becoming leaders’, 33rd EGOS Colloquium — Developing Leadership for the Good Organization, Copenhagen, Denmark, 6–8th July, 2017.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘Lean in to postfeminism’ — Best Paper Award, 10th International Critical Management Studies Conference, Liverpool, UK, 3rd–5th July, 2017.
Liu, H. (2017), ‘Redeeming difference in CMS through anti-racist feminism’, 10th International Critical Management Studies Conference, Liverpool, UK, 3rd–5th July, 2017.
Liu, H. (2016), ‘Leadership and the ethico-politics of intersectionality’, 15th International Studying Leadership Conference, Edinburgh, UK, 11–13th December, 2016.
Liu, H. (2016), ‘Leadership for a white gaze’, 32nd EGOS Colloquium — Reclaiming the Shadow for Leadership, Naples, Italy, 7–9th July, 2016.
Liu, H. (2015), ‘Writing eroticised subjects through desire and love’, 31st EGOS Colloquium — Ethico-Politics and Organization, Athens, Greece, 2nd–4th July, 2015.
Liu, H. and Baker, C. (2014), ‘Leadership, philanthropy and the heroicisation of whiteness’, 30th EGOS Colloquium — Language and Leadership: Discursive Variations in Ways of Leading, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 3rd–5th July, 2014.
Liu, H. (2013), ‘Embodying ethics: The visual representation of banking CEOs’, 29th European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) Colloquium — Embodying Leadership with Ethics in Mind, Montréal, Canada, 4–6th July, 2013.
Liu, H. (2013), ‘To thine own self be true? Authenticity among banking CEOs’, 1st International Leadership Association Oceania Conference, Auckland, New Zealand, 22nd–24th April, 2013.
Liu, H. (2010), ‘Leadership through crisis: A media discourse analysis of banking CEOs’, 9th International Conference on Organisational Discourse, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 14–16th July, 2010.
Liu, H. (2009), ‘Leadership representation in times of uncertainty’, 2nd New Zealand Discourse Conference Auckland, New Zealand, 18–20th November, 2009.
Liu, H. (2016), ‘Leadership and the ethico-politics of intersectionality’, Centre for Work, Organisation and Society, Essex Business School, Colchester, UK, 16th December 2016.
Liu, H. (2016), ‘Leadership for a white gaze: Strategic self-Orientalism among Chinese Australians’, UNE Business School, University of New England, Armidale, Australia, 4th November 2016.
Liu, H. (2016), ‘Leadership, masculinity, whiteness, and other romances’, Management Discipline Group, UTS Business School, Sydney, Australia, 4th May 2016.
Liu, H. and Grant, D. (2015), ‘Doing authenticity: The gendered construction of authentic leadership’, Qualitative Research Group, UNSW Business School, Sydney, Australia, 3rd December 2015.
Liu, H. (2014), ‘Heroicising whiteness: Racial dynamics in media representations of philanthropy’, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) Policy Forum, Melbourne, Australia, 11th November 2014.
Liu, H. and Baker, C. (2014), ‘Ordinary Aristocrats: The discursive construction of philanthropists as ethical leaders’, Melbourne Social Equity Institute (MSEI), University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 14th May 2014.
Liu, H. (2014), ‘Reimagining ethical leadership as relational, contextual, and political’, Swinburne Leadership Dialogue, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, 27th March 2014.
Liu, H. (2013), ‘Sailors, mothers, daredevils, and bastards: Banking CEOs during the GFC’, Asia Pacific Social Impact Leadership Centre (APSILC), University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 12th June 2013.
Liu, H. (2013), ‘The Global Financial Play-Doh’, Faculty of Business and Enterprise DataBlitz — The GFC: Five Years On, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, 22nd March 2013.
Liu, H. (2013), ‘Sailors, mothers, daredevils, and bastards: Banking CEOs during the GFC’, Swinburne Leadership Dialogue, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, 21st February 2013.
Liu, H. (2012), ‘Why your students would rather play video games than attend your tutorials... and what video games can teach us about tutoring’, Dean’s Citation for Tutoring Awards Ceremony, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 9th October 2012.
Liu, H. (2008), ‘When leaders fail’, Organisational Discourse, Strategy and Change Workshop — Leadership and Discourse, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 14–15th February 2008.
Liu, H. (2015), ‘Book review of Leadership: A Critical Text by Simon Western’, Organization, 22(6), pp. 944–948.
Liu, H. (2014), ‘Book review of Stepping Up: Lead Culture Change for Diversity and Growth in the Asian Century by Pamela Young’, Journal of Contemporary Issues in Business and Government, 20(1), pp. 89–91.
Liu, H. (2014), ‘Virtuous cycling on the job’, Inside Story.
media commentary & features
Liu, H. (2016), ‘What’s the most powerful action you’ve seen to promote women into leadership roles?’, INTHEBLACK.
‘Authentic leadership: How to be the real thing’, The Australian.
‘Is authentic leadership stuck on gender norms?’, The Glass Hammer.
‘Ordinary Aristocrats: Philanthropists as ethical leaders?’, Pro Bono Australia.
Baker, C. and Liu, H. (2014), ‘Will Andrew Forrest convince Australia’s billionaires to open their wallets?’, The Guardian.
Teaching is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work. During my PhD, I continuously taught alongside my candidature and have been honoured to be recognised by the University of Sydney Business School with a Dean’s Citation for Tutoring in all eight semesters I taught. At Swinburne Business School I coordinated the Honours degree and designed and delivered a rigorous Research Design and Methodologies coursework programme.
In my current role at University of Technology Sydney, I teaching strategic human resource management at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The 12-week curriculum covers the foundations of strategic HRM practice (including organisational culture, recruitment and staffing, training and development, performance management, and employee separation and retention) and critically challenges conventional managerial practice with deep dives into issues of diversity, power and social justice.
My teaching philosophy is informed by critical pedagogy (Freire, 1970); a learner-centred approach that aims to empower students towards positive social impact. Central to critical pedagogy is the concept of praxis, which refers to the connection between theory and practice. This notion drives my commitment to a rigorous research-led approach that at the same time grounds learning in students’ everyday practice. My overarching aim is to inspire my students to become critically reflexive lifelong learners who will challenge the narrow focus on profit that can otherwise be all too common in business schools.
Hi, I’m Helena, and I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Management Discipline Group at UTS Business School in Sydney, Australia. My research and teaching reflect my interests in leadership, discourse, and power. I am currently writing up a study examining progressive forms of leadership among Chinese Australians. My previous work have explored the ways leaders navigate through crisis, account for failures, and enact their authenticity.
I was born in Fuzhou, China before moving to Sydney, Australia when I was five. Hearing about my parents’ experiences growing up during the Cultural Revolution instilled in me a fascination with the intersection between charisma and power and an insatiable appetite for leadership knowledge. When I’m not researching, I love to eat, take photographs, and play all manner of video games. I’m currently playing Divinity: Original Sin. I was even invited to deliver a presentation about gaming and how it informs my teaching.
University of Technology Sydney
14–28 Ultimo Rd, Broadway,
NSW, 2007, Australia