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Blog: Keeping it Real: A Look at Authentic Leadership

Leadership Journey Levels:


Recently, I was coaching with a client and the topic of authentic leadership came up. The client was describing a former boss and said, “I think my previous boss was authentic – an authentic jerk – certifiable!”  The client went on to describe how the former boss was consistent and true to specific behaviors that gave him the title of “authentic jerk.”  Most of us would agree that this “boss” isn’t our definition of authentic leadership.  So, why do we use the word “authentic” to refer to leadership?

Let’s look at the definition of authentic: 

Conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief. 

Being so in fact; not fraudulent or counterfeit.

The first key component of the two definitions are “conforming to fact” and “being so in fact.”  For something to be declared authentic, you must have a set of existing facts of which to compare.  Facts declare or refute what is being presented as authentic. There have been numerous “facts” collected over the years that describe great leaders. These facts have been collected by studies, assessments, research/observations, etc.  The facts state that great leaders have:

  • Influence  
  • Integrity 
  • Vision 
  • Positive and productive relationships 
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Natural curiosity and a desire to learn
  • Good self-awareness and self-management skills       

The second key component of the definition of authentic are the words “conforming” and “not fraudulent or counterfeit.”  Authentic leaders are transparent. You can readily see and feel their impact. They are constant in their behavior and leading.  They do not act one way in certain situations and differently in another. Authentic leaders will stand-up to all the tests just like real diamonds will stand up to being tested.

The third component in defining authentic is “therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief.”  Once the facts are confirmed and the consistency is there, you can be sure that the leader is not a fraud.  I love the statement “therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief.”  What I get from this definition is that if you are in fact:

  • a person of influence
  • have and act in integrity
  • can define and cast a vision
  • care about others and show it
  • communicate often and well 
  • are constantly learning and have an insatiable curiosity and,
  • really know yourself and manage those “not so good characteristics” and emotions appropriately   

Then you are “worthy” of being called authentic because in all circumstances you can be trusted to tell it like it is, relied upon to do the right thing, and people will believe in you because you believe in them.

Take a few minutes to check the facts in your life.  Are you worthy to be called an Authentic Leader?


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