Lifting the veil: Seeking and contesting authenticity in CEO work

Liisa Välikangas, Janne Tienari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Considerable emphasis is placed on authenticity in leadership today, and many leaders may genuinely try to behave in keeping with their “true” selves. We suggest, however, that due to the many conflicting demands on their work and to their public role, where direct expressions of innerness are deemed inappropriate, Chief executive officers (CEOs) cannot be authentic in the strict sense of the word. To lift the veil concealing authentic leadership, we look into the role of humor in CEO work through a series of conversations with CEOs of large companies in different industries. We contest the popular notion of authenticity in CEO work. We argue that when authenticity is pursued for strategic or instrumental reasons, its very nature will probably frustrate any efforts to be genuine. In this light, the current quest for authentic leadership can be viewed as a diversion from the difficult work carried out by CEOs rather than a reflection of it.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalManagement
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1264-1277
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • chief executive officer
  • CEO work
  • authenticity
  • leadership
  • humor


Dive into the research topics of 'Lifting the veil: Seeking and contesting authenticity in CEO work'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this