Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Donna Ladkin and Chellie Spiller
Chapter 1: Introduction: authentic leadership: clashes, convergences and coalescences
When we were invited by Edward Elgar Publishing to edit a book about authentic leadership, we were both a bit sceptical. Authentic leadership? Isn’t that just a 1990s repackaging of transformational leadership? What does it actually mean, anyway? Given the contested nature of ‘authen- ticity’ itself, how would anyone know whether or not a leader was acting authentically? These were just some of the questions which nagged us as we began to consider the project. Scepticism soon morphed into intrigue as we began to delve a bit more deeply into the issues at the heart of our unease. Our reservations coalesced into two prime questions, which we introduce here as a way of framing the book as a whole. First, we both start from the premise that leadership is a relational phenomenon, not something that can ever be distilled down to the actions of one ‘leader’, whether ‘authentic’ or not. Instead, we understand leading to be something that involves taking up the leader ‘role’ – a part required by a particular socio-historic ‘moment’ – rather than being something that a person ‘is’ (Ladkin 2010; Spiller et al. 2010). In contrast to such a view, much of the authentic leadership literature focuses on the individual ‘leader’ (with a few notable exceptions such as Algera and Lips-Wiersma 2012 and Leroy et al. 2012). A key challenge, then, is ‘What are the implications of a relational view of leadership for the concept of “authentic leadership”?’ This is an underpinning question which informs many of the chapters in the book, either explicitly or implicitly.