The Fallacy of Discrete Authentic Leader Behaviours: Locating Authentic Leadership in Interaction

Magnus Larsson*, Jonathan Clifton, Stephanie Schnurr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

58 Downloads (Pure)


The concept of authentic leadership is increasingly the focus of much leadership scholarship, and many have called for a review of the basic assumptions that underpin it. Taking an interactional approach to authentic leadership (AL) and using naturally occurring workplace interaction as data, we seek to question two basic assumptions of AL scholarship, namely (1) that authentic leadership emanates from the atomized leader and (2) that there is a causal logic to it so that authentic leadership behaviours are the cause of follower outcomes. Addressing the research questions – what is the nature of the empirical phenomenon that is called AL and where can this be ontologically located? – our findings indicate that these two fundamental assumptions that underpin current AL research are not justified. Rather, what is taken to be AL is better understood as a collective and collaborative achievement, which can neither simply be attributed to the leader nor can the leader’s actions alone lead to follower outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)421-440
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 6. May 2021.


  • Interaction
  • Conversation analysis
  • Behaviour
  • Questionnaires
  • Authentic leadership

Cite this