Looking in the wrong place for the wrong people: the myth of authentic leadership

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    This paper argues that there is a difficulty with research because the concepts of authentic and ethical leadership, the manner in which they are defined, and the assumptions made of the actors in play have created a myth that cannot be readily accessed. By examining the basis of Gardner et al.’s critique of the current research, their acceptance of US-centric bias, and by drawing on evidence from organizational politics, change management, and notions of the social construction and competing narratives of leadership this paper suggests that authenticity is in the eye of the beholder. What would be useful to academics and practioners are studies of the way ethical leadership is “done” in organizations. Until more explicit narrative-based, processual-contextual approaches are developed these notions will remain too vague to be useful in leadership development terms. It concludes by suggesting that Chia’s (2014) perspective of European management scholarship and Eisenbeiss’s (2012) recommendations of an interdisciplinary ethical leadership approach founded on real cases offer clear pointers to the need for both European and Asian research which is application based. In this sense, a positivist approach that seeks quantitative studies amongst well-defined variables to enable universal claims to be made about the causal affects of leadership is looking for the wrong person in the wrong place.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages5
    Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2015


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