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 9: Essay: authentic leadership: demonstrating and encouraging three ways of knowing

Niki Harré


In this chapter I suggest that authenticity occurs when three types of knowing converge in the individual. These are: intellectual knowing; intuitive, values-based, metaphorical knowing; and the knowing that comes from practice. Authentic leadership is the attempt to make visible and encourage others to experience each type of knowing in the domain of interest. I discuss this in the context of my transformation to a sustainability advocate and my leadership of a school-based action research project. Seven years ago, at the age of 44, I experienced a profound shift in how I viewed the world and my role in it. It felt like an awakening, as if I finally saw how life works after years of confusion. Essentially, I realized that people are utterly part of the natural world and that this world is being recklessly disregarded by our current social practices. I have always had strong egalitarian values, and this insight further enriched these. I saw how our attitude to the natural world added to inequality and reduced many people’s opportunity to thrive. From then on, the desire to be part of creating a world that has human and ecological flourishing at its core has been a major driver of my academic, personal, community and political life. At one level, this shift was an identity transformation that cannot beneatly explained. However, identity shifts seem to emerge when the broader social context, our personal contexts and our personal characteristics work together to provide the groundwork for something new (Harré 2007).

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