This article is a response to Bill Gardner and Kelly McCauley’s ‘gaslighting’ critique of our text on the perils of authentic leadership. Against gaslighting 1.0 (evilly trying to convince people to doubt their perceptions), we propose gaslighting 2.0 (enlightenment). We argue that organizations face severe problems and challenges that cannot be solved by motivating managers to engage in introspection and being overly preoccupied by their own authenticity. A search for one’s true self is a personal journey of inner growth and heightened self-awareness that individuals, leaders and non-leaders may engage in and find highly beneficial, but outside any notion of exercising influence or power on others to reach career objectives or corporate goals. The broad use of simple recipes with claims of overwhelming positive effects is problematic. Leadership research is often based on highly problematic measures, making most efforts to capture the core phenomenon unreliable. That many people are attracted by simplistic, positive-sounding and ego-enhancing formulas is not the same as evidence for theoretical value and relevance of a truth claim. Taking aspiration as a critical element would call for the development and study of Aspirational Authentic Leadership Theory, which would be something quite different from the static study of how managers score in terms of being true to their values, a core self, and so on. In-depth process studies of managers trying to be authentic navigating dilemmas at work could be an alternative to focus further research on.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)814-831
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Early online date30 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding: The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article


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