Authentic Leadership
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Authentic Leadership

Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences

Edited by Donna Ladkin and Chellie Spiller

The majority of authentic leadership literature focuses on the individual leader. However, the authors in this volume expertly focus on the premise that leadership is a relational phenomenon and not something that can be distilled down to the actions of one leader, be they authentic or not.
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Chapter 15: Cameo: authentic followership in the knowledge economy

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones


We have been studying leadership from a sociological perspective for 20 years. Our interest sprang from dissatisfaction with largely psychological views of the leader. For us a critical insight was that, rather than be obsessed with leaders, the proper object of study was leadership – a relationship between the leaders and the led. If it’s a relationship it should be as much illuminated by sociological concepts as it is by psychological ones. The three axioms with which we begin are that leadership is contextual, relational and non-hierarchical. All of these derive from a sociological perspective. In this chapter we will focus on the relational aspects by examining the peculiar characteristics of the growing numbers of ‘clever’ followers who inhabit the organizations of the knowledge economy. Our view is that these individuals may be distinguished by the disproportionate value which they generate given the organizational resources which are made available to them. The evidence we cite is drawn largely from interviews we conducted with a number of these highly talented leaders and followers around the world over recent years. Of particular interest to this volume is the extent to which our findings invite a reconsideration of the relationship between expertise, legitimacy and authenticity. For instance, our research poses questions about the degree to which ‘leader authenticity’ as a concept even has any currency within organizations populated by highly skilled followers. In such contexts leaders’ ‘expertise’ rather than their ‘authenticity’ seems to be the defining characteristic valued by highly talented followers.

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