In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Authentic Leadership

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews/Literature Reviews
  • Theoretical Advances in Authentic Leadership
  • Authentic Leadership Development
  • Critiques of Authentic Leadership Theory
  • Practitioner Works

Management Authentic Leadership
William Gardner, Kelly Davis McCauley, Mavis Tang
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0104


Authentic leadership has been studied across a variety of disciplines (e.g., education, construction management, and nursing) and from numerous perspectives such as philosophy and psychology. However, the formal study of authentic leadership within the management literature surged following the publication of a seminal book chapter by Luthans and Avolio in 2003. Authentic leadership is most commonly defined as “a pattern of leader behavior that draws upon and promotes both positive psychological capacities and a positive ethical climate, to foster greater self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balanced processing of information, and relational transparency on the part of leaders working with followers, fostering positive self-development” (Authentic Leadership: Development and Validation of a Theory-Based Measure, cited under Empirical Research: Quantitative Research: Measurement, p. 94). Authentic leadership has been linked to a number of positive leader, follower, and organizational outcomes, suggesting that it holds much promise for helping leaders, followers, and their organizations to more effectively address the multitude of ethical and performance challenges found in the 21st-century workplace. Although the preceding definition and core dimensions of authentic leadership represent the most prevalent perspective on the construct, there are alternative perspectives and critiques of this dominant view. Radical Authentic Leadership: Co-creating the Conditions under Which all Members of the Organization Can Be Authentic (cited under Theoretical Foundations of the Authentic Leadership Construct: Philosophical Conceptualizations of Authentic Leadership) advances an alternative philosophical perspective of authentic leadership, and Authentic Leadership: Clashes, Convergences, and Coalescences (cited under Authentic Leadership Books: Scholarly Books) captures some of the “clashes, convergences, and coalescences” that have emerged within the authentic leadership literature in an edited volume on the topic. Questions have also been raised about the applicability of authentic leadership principles across cultural, occupational, industrial, structural, and temporal contexts that merit investigation, as discussed in ‘Can You See the Real Me?’ A Self-Based Model of Authentic Leader and Follower Development (cited under Theoretical Advances in Authentic Leadership). While authentic leadership is clearly related to ethical, spiritual, and transformational leadership, it is also conceptually distinct, as discussed in Taking Stock of Moral Approaches to Leadership: An Integrative Review of Ethical, Authentic, and Servant Leadership (cited under General Overviews/Literature Reviews). Specifically, it is differentiated by its focus on leader and follower authenticity and the emphasis placed on the four core components of self-awareness, balanced processing, relational transparency, and an internalized moral perspective. The merits of the conceptual and empirical support for authentic leadership theory have been increasingly discussed and debated in recent years, as evidenced by Alvesson and Einola’s 2019 critique of the theory and the ensuing exchange of leaders in Authentic Leadership Theory: The Case for and Against (cited under Critiques of Authentic Leadership Theory).

General Overviews/Literature Reviews

A number of narrative reviews are available that provide an overview of the authentic leadership literature. The most comprehensive is Gardner, et al. 2011, which traces the roots and evolution of authentic leadership theory, reviews the extant empirical research, and proposes an agenda for future research. Avolio and Walumbwa 2014 address key questions within the authentic leadership literature in their review. A concise summary of the field and focal streams of research is provided in Caza and Jackson 2011. Additionally, an integrative review of the moral elements of ethical, authentic, and servant leadership theories is advanced in Lemoine, et al. 2019.

  • Avolio, Bruce J., and Fred O. Walumbwa. “Authentic Leadership Theory, Research, and Practice: Steps Taken and Steps that Remain.” In The Oxford Handbook of Leadership and Organizations. Edited by David V. Day, 331–356. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    Provides a review of the development of the authentic leadership construct and early-21st-century empirical work related to a variety of performance and ethical outcomes. Future directions for the study of authentic leadership are discussed. Argues that future research should model the components of authentic leadership reflectively, while the higher-order authentic leadership construct should be modeled formatively.

  • Caza, Arran, and Brad Jackson. “Authentic Leadership.” In The Sage Handbook of Leadership. Edited by Alan Bryman, David L. Collinson, Keith Grint, Brad Jackson, and Mary Uhl-Bien, 352–364. London: SAGE, 2011.

    This narrative review describes the origins and motivation for authentic leadership theory as well as the major consequences and mechanisms of authentic leadership, reviews key empirical studies, and explores opportunities, questions, and concerns pertaining to the construct.

  • Gardner, William L., Claudia C. Cogliser, Kelly M. Davis, and Matthew P. Dickens. “Authentic Leadership: A Review of the Literature and Research Agenda.” The Leadership Quarterly 22 (2011): 1120–1145.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.09.007

    Comprehensive review of the extant authentic leadership literature that traces the development of the authentic leadership construct and major milestones in the advancement of the field, examines and critiques the available empirical research, identifies the nomological network for authentic leadership, and proposes an agenda for future research.

  • Lemoine, G. James, Chad A. Hartnell, and Hannes Leroy. “Taking Stock of Moral Approaches to Leadership: An Integrative Review of Ethical, Authentic, and Servant Leadership.” Academy of Management Annals 13 (2019): 148–187.

    DOI: 10.5465/annals.2016.0121

    An integrative literature review that draws on moral philosophy to advance a theoretical framework that differentiates ethical, authentic, and servant leadership by linking them to the underlying moral content reflected by deontological, virtue ethics, and consequentialist ethical perspectives. The review identifies opportunities for integration and differentiation among these moral approaches to leadership and proposes avenues for future research that advance complementary rather than redundant knowledge about how they can inform the study of leadership.

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