Resent events involving the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath have exposed the complexities and disputations related to authentic leadership necessitating its re-evaluation. As we are aware, the social and moral developments important in our history inform understandings--of our values and culture--compelling judgment and imposing personal introspection. And so, in a time when ethics and authenticity have been truncated by narcissistic behaviors--including anti-democratic ideologies and violence--strengthening ethical authenticity's moral core as a significant leadership construct seems appropriate. To bring clarity to this discussion and ground it both practically and philosophically, assistance is sought in the research of Mary Kay Copeland (1) and theoretical views of Charles Taylor. (2) Although they write for different purposes and several decades separate them, both believe an ethics of authenticity adds moral depth to leadership acuity and completes its meaning as a transformational behavior. Relevancy and meaning are achieved by placing this discussion in a context apropos to the values upheaval now defining the contemporary American political landscape. Clearly, and many are unaware, we are living in the afterglow of an ideological revolution--the Euro-centric Enlightenment--which has been molding our thinking for more than two centuries. Much of Taylor's work is directed at unraveling some of the inherited consequences of this mental shaping on his way to clarifying what he calls "the ethics of authenticity." Taylor believes that several of these consequences have narrowed our ethical understanding, polarized our ethics and values, and devalued any hope for an authentic ethic. And we can agree, for the 21 st century has witnessed the politicization of values and ethics and the continuation of the culture war debates definitive of the 20th century. With ethics now swirling in a confusing political current, our values, as well as values-based institutions, have been duly affected making an ethics of authenticity a questionable choice as a values-based leadership construct and moving us to its reconsideration.
GAINING PERSPECTIVE ABOUT AN ETHICS OF AUTHENTICITY
Mary Kay Copeland's review and comments about values-based leadership enrich the substance and importance of "authentic leadership" revealing its complexities when construed as a leadership construct within a business environment. Her commentary demonstrates the difficulties of framing "authenticity" within a narrow and abstract definition omitting its contextual situation. It is within a living, working context that "authenticity" attains its meaning and value. Consequently, after reviewing the prevailing literature and research on the various constructs supporting values-based leadership, Copeland turns to explicating the benefits of authentic leadership as a values-based leadership construct and within an organizational (business) setting. Her review and research demonstrate that transformational and ethical behaviors augment authentic leadership's effectiveness.
Following Copeland's explication is an explanation of Charles Taylor's ethics of authenticity. Reading Taylor is like taking a trip through the history of ideas about knowledge and ethics that arose during the Euro-centric Enlightenment and brought forward through various normative ideologies and disputes. His prolonged study identified several of these as "problems leaking into our time"--obstacles which have diminished the meaning and impact of ethics. He identifies these...