Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Donna Ladkin and Chellie Spiller
Chapter 8: Essay: life stories, personal ambitions and authenticity: can leaders be authentic without pursuing the ‘higher good’?
The term ‘authentic’ is a very value-laden term. Despite some claims about the value of inauthenticity in social life whereby a person discerns what is appropriate behavior in any given circumstance (for example, Waskul 2009), most of us seek authenticity in our life and social relations and attach greater value to authentic objects, persons (for example, leaders) and relationships (for example, leadership) than to inauthentic objects, people and relationships. Similarly, most of the philosophical and psychological literature on authenticity attaches a positive value to this construct. However, the literature on authentic leadership has added to the term ‘authentic leader’ some value-laden meanings that extend beyond the term ‘authenticity’ as commonly used in popular discourse and as developed in the social sciences by such authors as Erickson (1995), Harter (2002) and Kernis and Goldman (2006). The roots of these extensions have been traced to Aristotle’s idea that aworthy life is ethical in the sense of serving the ‘higher good’ (for a recent review of the literature on authentic leadership see Gardner et al. 2011). This idea was translated by several leadership scholars to mean that authentic leaders are not only authentic in the sense of being true to themselves, that is, possessing self-knowledge and enacting their self- concept and beliefs in their behavior, but also authentic in the sense of acting morally. Such a view can be found, for instance, in the influential conceptualization of authentic leadership developed by Avolio, Luthans, Gardner and their colleagues.
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