Authentic Leadership Theory Excerpt

What is Authentic Leadership

By Nick Craig

Authentic Leadership is one of the new 21st century models for leadership. In 2007, my colleague Bill George published the HBR article “Discovering Your Authentic Leadership.” That same year, he and I completed the book Finding Your True North, in which we outlined how to embark on the journey to discover your Authentic Leadership.

Over the past six years, we have witnessed leaders having to “lead” through some trying times,such as the 2008 recession, the Arab spring, Japan’s tsunami, the economic challenges in countries such as Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, as well as the challenge of rapid growth in China and Brazil. What I witnessed among these leaders has significantly affected my view of the Authentic Leadership model and what it has become. There is a great deal we now know that we didn’t know back in 2007, and I will share these thoughts with you as well.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

E.E. Cummings

What is Authentic Leadership?

Academics have a variety of definitions for Authentic Leadership. William Gardner and his academic team at Texas Tech University created a working definition based on their extensive review of all the literature on Authentic Leadership as of October 2012:

Authentic Leadership refers to a genuine form of leadership through which leaders achieve:

  • Self-awareness: they know and own who they are -- including their strengths and weaknesses, motives, emotions, and core values
  • Balanced processing: they welcome both positive and negative feedback as a means of learning about themselves
  • Transparency: they openly share their thoughts and feelings with those close to them
  • An internal moral compass: they stay true to their personal values and display consistency between their words and deeds

Currently, we ask groups in our workshops to create their own definition of Authentic Leadership, based on their experience. We feel it would be prescriptive and inauthentic to impose a definition of Authentic Leadership on the group, since it must come from within...

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