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The words leader/líder and their resonances in an Italo-Latin American multinational corporation

Gaggiotti, Hugo; Marre, Diana


Hugo Gaggiotti
Professor in Human Resource Management

Diana Marre


© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. The problems of ‘lost in translation’ are well known. Yet some terms of English managerial vocabulary, which are perfectly translatable in other languages, remain untranslated. One explanation of this phenomenon is what Linguistic anthropology call negative semantic resonances. Semantic resonances focused on the issue of which meanings can or cannot be expressed by a single word in different cultures. In this paper, based on an organisational ethnography of Latin American expatriates working for an Italo-Latin-American multinational corporation (Tubworld), we analyse the resonances of the word leader/líder and director, direttore, capo, guida, coordinador, caudillo among a group of expatriates; all Italian, Spanish or multilingual speakers who use English as a second language in their everyday interactions. The paper explains how the different uses contribute to create a meaning of what a leader should and should not be; someone who leads without leading, sometimes a manager. The authors, an Italian native speaker who learnt Spanish during childhood and use English as his everyday language and a Spanish native speaker, argue that Italian or Spanish speakers not only avoid the words duce and caudillo (the vernacular vocabulary for leader, not in use due to the political and cultural meaning) but also the word leader/líder itself, as it resonate to the other two (violent, authoritarian, autocratic, antidemocratic leadership) but furthermore because the word, a lexical loan from English, failed to encapsulate the complexity of leading multilingual organisations like Tubworld.


Gaggiotti, H., & Marre, D. (2017). The words leader/líder and their resonances in an Italo-Latin American multinational corporation. Leadership, 13(2), 194-214.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 10, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 16, 2017
Publication Date Apr 1, 2017
Journal Leadership
Print ISSN 1742-7150
Electronic ISSN 1742-7169
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 2
Pages 194-214
Keywords Leadership, language, multilingualism, organisations, polyphony, lexic, semantic resonances
Public URL
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