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Professors David Lehman and Kieran O’Connor Win Academy of Management Annals Best Article Award

The paper, titled “Authenticity,” proposes to clarify the very meaning of the word, while providing a conceptual framework with which to understand the wide range of definitions it signifies.

David Lehman and Kieran O'Connor

David Lehman and Kieran O'Connor

Commerce School Professors David Lehman and Kieran O’Connor received the Academy of Management’s 2020 Best Article Award for their paper published in the organization’s Annals journal.

The winning article, “Authenticity,” written in collaboration with Balázs Kovács and George E. Newman from the Yale School of Management, continues the innovative work that Lehman and O’Connor have been producing on the topic.

According to Lehman, “Authenticity” proposes to clarify the very meaning of the word, while providing a conceptual framework with which to understand the wide range of definitions it signifies.

This sample paragraph from the paper highlights the nature of the problem that the article examines:

Indeed, various scholars use the same term “authenticity” but in different ways. Consider the following questions: Are you your “true self” at work? (Guerrier & Adib, 2003). Is your favorite pair of Levi’s jeans genuine or fake? (Newman & Dhar, 2014). Was last night’s symphonic performance of “L’Enfance du Christ” true to the genre of classical music? (Glynn & Lounsbury, 2005). Is your boss an authentic leader? (Sparrowe, 2005). Was the wine served at last night’ s dinner party real Barolo? (Negro et al., 2011). Is Shakespeare’ s Globe Theatre really located at its original site? (Grayson & Martinec, 2004). Does your favorite Thai restaurant actually serve traditional Thai cuisine? (Kovacs et al., 2014). Is Waylon Jennings an authentic musician and, if so, is it because of his unique style of music, his cowboy hat, or perhaps even his “hillbilly roots”? (Peterson, 1997). Do you even know who you really are at the end of the day? (Schlegel, Hicks, Arndt, & King, 2009). In each of these cases, the label of “authenticity” or some synonymous term is invoked and the attribution entails a verification process of whether or not someone or something is “real” or “genuine” or “true.” Yet, on closer inspection, it becomes apparent that each case involves the application of a different meaning of the concept.

O’Connor says that the current uptick in fascination with true authenticity is the result of a steady increase in importance over recent decades that includes its ability to affect daily life, from bringing our “true selves” to work and serving leaders and colleagues whom we perceive as authentic.

The McIntire faculty members have previously focused most of their efforts on the idea of authenticity as it relates to dining-out experiences, drawing data from Charlottesville Restaurant Week in July 2016; some of their findings were then featured in Harvard Business Review. But ultimately, they believe that their research has far greater possibilities for application in many other areas.

“The paper is timely because the concept of authenticity is becoming increasingly prominent across a range of academic disciplines, including management, marketing, psychology, sociology, tourism, and beyond,” says Lehman. “It is also entered into our public discourse in significant ways. A simple Google search for the word ‘authentic’ produces nearly a billion results. Without a doubt, authenticity is in high demand.”

O’Connor agrees. “We approached it from a management and organizational behavior perspective, but it also applies just as much to marketing and strategy, and has deep roots in psychology, philosophy (from the ancients to Heidegger and existentialism), and literature. Recall Polonius says to Laertes in ‘Hamlet,’ ‘This above all: To thine own self be true.’ This richness gave the impression that we were working on something that many different readers could relate to and find interesting.”

Additionally, their award-winning article highlights intriguing patterns and posits unresolved questions for future examination.

“We hope that scholars find the paper helpful to provide a deeper understanding of the concept, and also stimulating to propose new directions and questions for future research,” says O’Connor.

About Annals: The Academy of Management Annals journal publishes in-depth and integrative reviews of research advances in management, intending to “summarize and/or challenge established assumptions and concepts, pinpoint problems and factual errors, inspire discussions, and illuminate possible avenues for further study.” According to Web of Science Journal Citation Report, Annals is the #1 ranked Management journal in the field, and the #1 ranked journal in the category of Business.

About the Academy of Management: Founded in 1936, the Academy is the preeminent professional association for management and organization scholars, with 20,000 business school professor and PhD student members worldwide.

Read more about Lehman and O’Connor’s “Authenticity” article here.

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