Book review by Kris Bachoo –
Authentic Leadership: Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences, Donna Ladkin and Chellie Spiller, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd ISBN-: 978-1781006375
This collection of international research papers is firmly aimed at the academic market; but it has valuable nuggets of interest for the diligent leadership development professional and/or curious manager.
The book offers no easy answers to an all-encompassing definition of authentic leadership. Hence he ‘Clashes’ in the title. However, the authors define it as “the straightforward task of acting in way which is congruent with..self”
Divided into three themes – examination of self (where theories clash ); where research converges; and coalescences ( where ideas merge). The first of these themes considers when leaders are faced with uncertainty, and how that affects authenticity. Increasingly, managers have had to lead in a world of organisational constraints and difficult employees. Here, some of the most famous allegedly ‘ authentic leaders’ are examined. Were Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln truly authentic?
The second section, considers where theories converge, and three ideas are presented. Firstly, rather than leading others in an organisational context, ‘letting go ‘ and leading in mutual reciprocity. Secondly, the importance of power and status is explored-authentic leaders do not play the status game! Finally, which will be a relief for most practicing managers – authentic leadership has to be ‘forged and honed’. Everyone, it seems, has to work at it!
The last theme discussed, is where the theories merge. Here, the difficulties that women and minorities face in conforming to dominant, often masculine, organisational cultures, are examined. Some ideas for developing authenticity are offered – focussing on ‘knowing ‘ your staff personally (yes, even virtual teams), demonstrating a long-term interest in your organisation, showing vulnerability and leading innovation.
This book is a thought-provoking resource, for the serious student of leadership.
4 stars: Strong, strongly recommended for managers and leaders