Caring Leader Identity Between Power and Powerlessness

Charlotta Levay, Monica Andersson Bäck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper investigates what happens when managers’ identity is centred on caring, an underappreciated aspect of leadership. Drawing on a case study of managers in elderly care, we distil an ideal-typical caring leader identity as well as contextualised interpretations that suggest both problematic and constructive aspects. The caring leader identity implies a self-understanding as being highly present, supportive and helpful to subordinates’ development. We find that the belief of making a decisive difference to others’ development by caring for them can be a deceptive fantasy that incites over-dependence among subordinates, particularly for ambitious managers who experience pressing situations and little power. Under better but likely less common conditions, managers can develop more modest expressions of a caring leader identity, leaving space for subordinates themselves to define problems and explore solutions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration

Keywords

  • caring leadership
  • identity
  • leadership
  • managerial identity

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