Paradoxes of authentic leadership: Leader identity struggles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Using in-depth interview material, this article explores the socially constructed and locally mediated nature of authentic leadership. The findings illustrate an irony of authentic leadership: while leaders claim that it is their true and natural selves that make them good leaders; simultaneously, they must restrain their claimed authenticity in order to be perceived as good leaders. This generates tensions that undermine the construction of a more stable and coherent leader identity. The study finds that in order to resolve these tensions, the managers develop metaphorical selves-Mother Teresa, messiah and coach-as a way of trying to accommodate conflicting identity claims while remaining true to the idea of themselves as authentic leaders exercising good leadership. These findings contribute to a constructed, situational and contested notion of leadership by showing how authenticity is an existential project of 'essentialising' fragmented and conflicting selves.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration


  • Authentic leadership, metaphors, discourse, identity, social, construction
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-455
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch