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 12: Essay: authentic leadership and the status trap

Steven S. Taylor


I approach authenticity as an actor, perhaps not a good one and without doubt not a natural one, but after years of training certainly a reflective one. That means that I am not concerned here with the idea of an ‘authentic’ self, nor indeed with the philosophic issues that the idea of authenticity raises. Rather I am concerned with the moment-by-moment relationship I have with other actors and the audience. I want that relationship to feel ‘real’, ‘honest’ and ‘genuine’. I want the other actors and the audience to believe that I am the character in some embodied felt way, even as they intellectually know that I am not that character. Everything I know about acting is focused on how to make those relationships feel authentic to others. One of the most useful acting techniques for making the relationships with other actors feel authentic to the audience is to consciously play status (Johnstone 1979). By playing status I mean consciously trying to raise or lower my own status in relationship to the other actors. Why does playing status create authentic relationships? The short answer is that playing status is how actors enact the micro-dynamics of power relations that fill our social world (or perhaps even constitute it), and relationships that don’t have those constant, ongoing micro-dynamics don’t feel real – they just don’t feel authentic. The longer answer, and what that means for authentic leadership, is the subject of this chapter.

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