Leadership and the paradox of authenticity
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In 2003, Bill George (former CEO of Medtronic Plc an S&P 500 constituent) argued that “Due to the current crisis, complexities and challenges facing our society and organizations nowadays we need from a new type of leadership—the authentic leader. Following that line of thought, Harvard Business Review published an article by Goffee and Jones in which they noted “Leadership demands the expression of an authentic self” (2005). One decade later “authenticity has become the gold standard for leaders” (Ibarra, 2015). On the surface, authentic leadership represents an ideal for leaders to aspire to. But unfortunately a simplistic understanding of authenticity can hinder a leader’s development (Ibarra, 2015). This chapter exposes some of the complexities and nuances of authentic leadership by capturing some of the “true” and paradoxical essence of authenticity. This nuanced picture is informed by (a) the work of leadership scholars combined with (b) my background of 20 years studying and working in Psychology, (c) my experience as a CEO advisor and HR manager, (d) my work and reflections as a leadership developer and coach, (e) my academic theoretical understanding and (f) my own internal work aiming to become an authentic leader. In the next few sections four paradoxes are presented followed by suggestions for dealing with them.
This is the author version of a chapter accepted for publication by Routledge.
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