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Lifting the veil: Seeking and contesting authenticity in CEO work

Published on Jan 1, 2018
· DOI :10.3917/mana.214.1264
Liisa Välikangas14
Estimated H-index: 14
Janne Tienari19
Estimated H-index: 19
Considerable emphasis is placed on authenticity in leadership today, and many leaders may genuinely try to behave in keeping with their “true” selves. We suggest, however, that due to the many conflicting demands on their work and to their public role, where direct expressions of innerness are deemed inappropriate, Chief executive officers (CEOs) cannot be authentic in the strict sense of the word. To lift the veil concealing authentic leadership, we look into the role of humor in CEO work through a series of conversations with CEOs of large companies in different industries. We contest the popular notion of authenticity in CEO work. We argue that when authenticity is pursued for strategic or instrumental reasons, its very nature will probably frustrate any efforts to be genuine. In this light, the current quest for authentic leadership can be viewed as a diversion from the difficult work carried out by CEOs rather than a reflection of it.
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