What is Authentic Leadership?

How Do We Define Authenticity in Leadership?

Most people would agree that authentic leadership is a good thing. But what does it mean? What qualities do authentic leaders possess that set them apart from other leaders? Wikipedia provides many different interpretations of authenticity including this passage:

“Authenticity is something to be pursued as a goal intrinsic to “the good life.” And yet it is often described as an intrinsically difficult state to achieve, due in part to social pressures to live inauthentically, and in part due to a person’s own character. It is also described as a revelatory state, where one perceives oneself, other people, and sometimes even things, in a radically new way. Some writers argue that authenticity also requires self-knowledge, and that it alters a person’s relationships with other people. Authenticity also carries with it its own set of moral obligations.”                                                                                                                                                                 Wikipedia, Authenticity

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes authenticity as both personal and social: “The prevailing view seems to have been that, by turning inward and accessing the “true” self, one is simultaneously led towards a deeper engagement with the social world. This is why Taylor (1989: 419–455) describes the trajectory of the project of authenticity is ‘inward and upward’.”

What Are Its Inner and Outer Dimensions?

I believe that the following 14 personal, interpersonal and societal dimensions together form what we think of as authenticity. They involve overcoming the internal and external barriers to living an intentional, aware and ethical life. See if you agree.

Personal

Introspective

Self-Aware

Takes Responsibility

Has High Ethical Standards

Fully Present/Aware of Reality

Honest

Genuine

True to One’s Self

Aligned in Thought, Word and Deed (Has Integrity)

Committed to Growth and Learning

Interpersonal

Fully Respectful and Inclusive

Cares About Others

Service-Focused

Societal

Has An Identified Life Purpose or Calling

Reaches Individual Potential in Ways That Benefit Society

 

Growth Required

Discovering our authentic selves often involves venturing into areas where we are not a bit comfortable, but where we believe we can find meaning in our work and lives. As Herminia Ibarra wrote in her article Managing Authenticity: The Paradox of Great Leadership (HBR, January 2015) “The only way we grow as leaders is by stretching the limits of who we are—doing new things that make us uncomfortable but that teach us through direct experience who we want to become.”

 

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About Linda Fisher Thornton
Linda Fisher Thornton is Founder and CEO of Leading in Context, and author of the award-winning book 7 Lenses. She teaches as Adjunct Assoc. Prof. for University of Richmond SPCS. She is leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.

7 Responses to What is Authentic Leadership?

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  5. Thanks so much for your additions to the list of what make a leader authentic!

  6. roarl says:

    Reblogged this on Roarl's Blog and commented:
    Hello,
    I follow your points and agree them and what you write.
    For the moment I’m in a process where my thoughts and experiences to develop further ethics, morality, social justice, etc. beyond what I experience internationally today.

    In two decades, I developed technology that received strong resistance in people with positions, titles and economic interests. There I work with to understand and accommodate.

    In your points I want to add after honesty;
    clarity, curiosity, interest, motivation to build self esteem and confidence.
    Trust to other people we build through experience and confidence!

    I have learned from our children when they move out in nature.
    I think that change should be a mandatory part of our management and international development forward. The rich should not get richer and the poor should not be poorer!

    Capital should not be a goal and means of power, but only a medium of exchange between people, interests and nations.
    My process is not finished yet!

  7. Pingback: What is Authentic Leadership? | HENRY KOTULA

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