1. Daniel Nyberg

  1. ICCSR, Nottingham University Business School, Nottingham, UK; The University of Sydney Business School, Sydney, Australia
  1. Daniel Nyberg, ICCSR Nottingham University, Jubilee Campus, Wollaton Road, Nottingham NG8 1BB, UK. Email: daniel.nyberg{at}nottingham.ac.uk


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.

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Paradoxes of authentic leadership: Leader identity struggles