Warning for excessive positivity: Authentic leadership and other traps in leadership studies

Mats Alvesson, Katja Einola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

198 Citations (Scopus)


We study authentic leadership as a prominent but problematic example of positive leadership that we use as a more general “warning” against the current fashion of excessive positivity in leadership studies. Without trying to cover “everything”, we critically examine the principal tenets of mainstream authentic leadership theory and reveal a number of fundamental flaws: shaky philosophical and theoretical foundations, tautological reasoning, weak empirical studies, nonsensical measurement tools, unsupported knowledge claims and a generally simplistic and out of date view of corporate life. Even though our study focuses on authentic leadership, much of our criticism is also applicable to other popular positive leadership theories, such as transformational, servant, ethical and spiritual leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalThe Leadership Quarterly
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)383-395
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 28.04.2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed
Event35th EGOS Colloquium: Sub-theme 37: The Intricacies of Meta-Organizations - University of Edinburgh Business School, Edinburgh , United Kingdom
Duration: 04.07.201906.07.2019


  • 512 Business and Management

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Leading for growth and well-being


Dive into the research topics of 'Warning for excessive positivity: Authentic leadership and other traps in leadership studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this