Special Issue "Authentic Leadership and Talent Development"

A special issue of Administrative Sciences (ISSN 2076-3387). This special issue belongs to the section "Leadership".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Gelaye Debebe
Guest Editor
Department of Organizational Sciences and Communication, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA
Interests: Cross-cultural competence; women’s leadership development; authentic talent development; qualitative research methods

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Debebe (2017) defines authentic leadership and talent development as “a process whereby individuals discover what they are good at and love to do and use their talents to express their values” (p. 420). Applying this concept to the context of leadership, she argues that the development of talent fuels the leader’s inspiration, and this, in turn, is contagious, mobilizing inspired action in others. Thus, influence in leadership is, in part, exercised through being deeply connected to what one does. Drawing on an extensive body of work in the talent development literature (e.g., Ambrose 2003; Carter and Constantine 2000; Ford 1995), she also argues that social identity ascription processes constrain individuals’ capacity to construct authentic talent trajectories—those aligned with intrinsic interests and values. Finally, Debebe (2017) suggests that individual capacity to navigate these constraints and construct authentic talent trajectories, resides, at least in part, in the cultivation and use of psychological capital. This call for papers seeks to invite contributions that build on and expand this formulation of authentic talent development in the context of an array of topic areas of interest in organizational research and practice (Debebe 2017).

Talent refers to competencies that produce exceptional performance in some arena. Talent development researchers suggest that talents emerge from a learning process in which an individual’s natural gifts are identified and developed. An individual is said to be gifted when they spontaneously display precocious development in some ability domain (Gagne 1986, 2004). The identification of gifts, and their development through a systematic learning process, contributes to talent development (Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Römer 1993; Olszewski-Kubilius, Subotnik and Worrell 2015; Plucker and Callahan 2014). Through this process, an individual cultivates gifts, increasing, advancing, and expanding competencies that contribute to skilled action in a range of substantive areas (e.g., teaching, mentoring, performing surgery, painting, negotiating).

An individual may display giftedness in more than one area (e.g., poetry, art, and science), but he/she is unlikely to be equally interested in each. Ideally, the transformation of gifts into talents would be an organic process whereby individuals are enabled to find what Ken Robinson (2009; 2013) referred to as the “element”. People are in their element when there is convergence between the things they are good at doing and the things they love to do. Building on this idea, Debebe (2017) argues that choosing what to do is essential to authenticity in talent development, stating: “being in one’s element is not just about doing intrinsically satisfying work. It is fundamentally about becoming who you are through the choices you make regarding what you do.” Thus, free will in the exercise of choice is central to the concept of authentic talent development.

Self-determination is also essential to the process of becoming authentic. Hence, formulating an interest in a particular gift is a subjective assessment—what counts is what pleases an individual and not what others think would be useful or pleasurable to the individual. Free will in choice, however, is socially constrained, and this Special Issue focuses on constraints shaped by ascribed identities. Social identity ascription processes in the context of talent development are both external (e.g., economic systems, selection mechanisms, and stereotyping) as well as internal (e.g., development of identities that conform to ascribed expectations). Together, external and internal processes of ascription constrain choice in the process of talent development by shaping learning opportunities, individual expectations, preparation, and individuals’ sense of his/her horizons, possibilities, and aspirations.

This Special Issue specifically seeks papers that explore two related aspects of the process that influence authentic talent development in sociocultural context. One aspect relates to social structure. Papers within this category would explore how social identity ascription is promulgated to social structures. Several are relevant to talent development at different stages of life (e.g., schooling practices, organizational promotion and talent identification practices) and can potentially thwart or alternatively enable authentic talent development. Another aspect relates to action. Here papers would explore how individuals respond to ascription processes embedded in social structure in ways that either thwart authentic talent development and/or alternatively craft ways of exercising free choice in the context of constraint.

Papers can explore a wide variety of topics of interest to organizational scholars, but they must be framed in ways that speak to some of the most well-developed social identity categories. These include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, social class, religion, age, and physical and/or mental (dis)ability. Organizational topics of interest might include but are not limited to leadership, organizational change, learning, psychological capital, mental health, social capital, mentoring, identity negotiation, careers, work–life balance, and academic achievement.


Ambrose, D. (2002). Socioeconomic stratification and its influences on talent development: Some interdisciplinary perspectives. Gifted Child Quarterly, 46, 171–180.

Carter, R. T. and Constantine, M. G. (2000). Career maturity: Life role salience, and racial/ethnic identity in Black and Asian American college students. Journal of Career Assessment, 8, 173–187

Debebe, G. (2017). Authentic leadership and talent development: Fulfilling human potential in sociocultural context. Advances in Developing Human Resources. 19, 420–438.

Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T. and Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100, 363–406.

Ford, D. Y. (1995). Desegregating gifted education: A need unmet. The Journal of Negro Education, 64, 52–60.

Olszewski-Kubilius, P., Subotnik, R. F. and Worrell, F. C. (2015). Conceptualizations of gifted- ness and the development of talent: Implications for counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93, 143–152.

Plucker, J. A. and Callahan, C. M. (2014). Research on giftedness and gifted education: Status of the field and considerations for the future. Exceptional Children, 80, 390–406.

Robinson, K. (2009). The element: How finding your passion changes everything. London, England: Penguin Books.

Robinson, K. (2013). Finding your element: How to discover your talents and passions and transform your life. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Dr. Gelaye Debebe
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Administrative Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

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  • talent development
  • giftedness
  • authenticity
  • social identity ascription
  • identity development
  • identity negotiation
  • organizational structure and culture

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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