Being An Authentic Leader


When I was sitting in my Sunday lecture, my teacher brought home what it meant to be hypocritical when discussing Jesus’ interaction with the leaders of his time, The Pharisees. Jesus openly criticized their actions to his followers in Matthew 23:2: “Therefore, whatever they [Pharisees] tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do their works. For they speak, but do nothing.They fasten heavy loads that are hard to carry and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with their finger.”

Sadly, many workers face some less than genuine managers that fail to inspire them for greater performance.  In this blog discussion, we will explore the the concept of authentic leadership in today’s society.

Competition is fierce across the globe. Managers are often forced to act genuine with their employees because financial circumstances force them to behave in ways that are in the best interest of shareholders and investors, not their employees.  Yet, organizations need talented and inspired employees who go beyond the basic requirements to excellence.  Yet, employees are reluctant to give this type of performance to self-serving leaders who do not care about them.

Forbes contributing writer Victor Lipman, in his article “The Foundational Importance of Trust in Management,” notes the alarming levels of distrust among workers.  According to a Gallup survey, 70% of workers are disengaged in the organization.[1]  Lipman found several contributing factors to this problem, which were: disingenuous communication, lack of modeling behavior, and financial pressure. Lipman explains, “As a manager myself, I recognized it was critical for my employees to trust me if I expected them to be fully productive on my watch.”  With trust on the downturn with numerous layoffs and higher unemployment, managers must be sincere and genuine with their workforce if they want a different type of performance.


Organizations must foster authentic leadership in today’s environment. Leadership denotes the ability to influence others.  When the adjective of authentic is modified on the word, something special emerges.  The adjective authentic conveys “something that is real or genuine and not counterfeit.”  In the case of the Pharisees, they were influencers of their followers.  However, the reality of the matter was that their type of leadership was not genuine or sincere. Authentic leadership defines the leader’s ability to have honest relationships with followers through transparent relationships.  In this mode, the leader may leave himself/herself vulnerable to others.

Bill George, author of Authentic Leadership, describes authentic leadership as ‘a leadership style that is consistent with a leader’s personality and core values, and that is honest, ethical and practical.’[2]  Dr. Richard Daft, author of Management, further outlines the following key characteristics of authentic leadership: (a) Authentic leaders pursue their purpose with passion; (b) Authentic leaders practice solid values; (c) Authentic leaders lead with their hearts as well as their heads; (d) Authentic leaders establish connected relationships; and Authentic leaders demonstrate self-discipline.[3]  With these traits, authentic leadership would be synonymous with an unselfish leadership approach.

In closing, today’s workers want managers who can inspire them for higher performance. However, workers are not looking for managers who are not genuine in their relationships with them. By utilizing authentic leadership in their organizations, managers will be better able to build these types of positive relationships with workers. Start today!

Please explain the concept of authentic leadership from your professional or personal experience.


© 2016 by Daryl D. Green


[1] “The Foundational importance of Trust in Management” by Victor Lipman


[2] Authentic Leadership by Bill George

[3] Management by Richard Daft


23 thoughts on “Being An Authentic Leader

  1. Rob Goffee et al. (2005) in his article in the Harvard Business Review, Managing Authenticity, said “No leader can look into a mirror and say, “I am authentic”. A person cannot be authentic on his or her own”. I found this quote extremely insightful to this blog topic. True Authenticity is a two part process: one part consists of backing up your words with actions so your followers can respect and trust in your leadership, the other consists of getting the support of your followers by compromising without jeopardizing some of your values so as to align with theirs. Herein lays the biggest authenticity challenge for a leader, staying true to his or her core values while at the same time genuinely relating and adjusting to the values of his followers without seeming manipulative.
    I have found managers to be extremely aggressive with their leadership style forcing their employees to submit or leave. This approach, although authentic to their values and style, may not work with all of your followers. Recently, I witnessed an instance where the resistance to adapt to leading older long-term employees differently from leading younger, more motivated ones, cost the organization some valuable knowledge and experience.

    Goffee, Rob, and Jones, Gareth., “Managing authenticity: the paradox of great leadership”, Harvard Business Review, December 2005, pp 87-94


    • Hi Kapil,

      I appreciate your thoughts on the topic. You talk about what takes to be authentic and how your true authenticity may not be best matched for the team you are working with. Zander et al. touch on this subject and talk about how your true self can be abrasive at times (2011). It can be important to understand where you are coming from in order to present your thoughts in the best light possible.

      Keeping with your core values is also very important to me. Not much bothers me more than a person who will drop their identity in order to make themselves look better. At times, it can be a fine line between bettering yourself and changing who you are. Zander et al.’s points are important, but they also focus a lot on character traits as opposed to core values. When we are improving ourselves, we need to focus on the differences. Characteristics can change, but we should all stay true to our core.


      Zander, Lauren and Gruenfeld, Deborah. (2011). Want to Change the World? Be resilient. Retrieved from


    • Ranganathan,

      I agree with the two points you have made. To be authentic a person must back up their words with actions, and be able to compromise while still holding their values. It all boils down to these two points. Without this at the foundation everything will come crashing down.
      I do feel that in order to compromise while holding fast to values, it takes a considerable amount of trust. The more trust that the leader shares with their employees, the less manipulative the leader will appear. It is important to avoid this characteristic, even being accused of being manipulative can result in a train wreck. Long (2015) says it well, “If your company is running on manipulation, you’ll face roadblock after roadblock to doing good work. You’ll be slowed down at every opportunity by personality issues, drama, dissent, pettiness, and politics” (para. 5). Being authentic will make the organization run smoother and keep everyone happy.

      [WC – 156]

      Works Cited:
      Long, D. (2015). How to Stop Manipulating People Around You. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from

  2. The Pharisees were inauthentic because they were too obsessed with following the rules of the law and never reflected on the reason for those rules. When I read that, I thought of Kierkegaard, an existentialist. Kierkegard’s argument was that how we relate to the truth is as important as the truth itself, so to be authentic we must examine the truth and examine ourselves. Fusco et al (2015) posit that authentic leadership is similar. To become an authentic leader, first you must examine yourself and determine your values, goals, beliefs and purpose. There is also the problem of freedom – in that we are free to make our choices, but we face external demands that may pull us toward inauthentic choices, or “bad faith.” Authentic leadership means being true to yourself, even when it’s difficult.
    In my job now, authenticity is a real challenge. My wife caught a student plagiarizing, but the committee decided it wasn’t plagiarism and awarded 95% to the student. My wife fought it all the way up the chain, irritating management the whole way. She had to. It was an issue of being true to herself and I admire her for it. [WC – 195]
    Fusco, T., O’Riordan, S., & Palmer, S. (2015, December 1). An existential approach to Authentic Leadership Development. Coaching Psychologist, 11(2), 61-71. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from

    • Hello Thomas,

      Thanks for your erudite comments! Authenticity is not easy. I love your example with your wife cheating a student cheating and the student getting away with it..

      You hit home an excellent point. If you are an authentic person, this reality may cost you in the short run.

      Thus, you see a lot of phony folks leading and telling followers what they want to hear.


      Does it really cost something to be an authentic leader?

      Professor Green

      • Hello Professor Green,
        It is often said that many leaders have read The Prince. Machiavelli states that, “those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word” (Machiavelli, 2016).
        If this is the kind of book our leaders read, then should we be surprised that they are phony? If we go by Machiavelli, the appearance of virtue is better than being virtuous.
        Sulphey and Jnaneswar (2013) found that only 44% of business students had high standards of academic honesty. Previous research showed that graduate business school students cheated more than other majors. Academic dishonesty is linked to later unethical business practices. Cheating is easier than real success, so short term it costs a lot to be authentic. Long term, cheaters get caught. Ask Enron or WorldCom.
        [WC -200]

        Machiavelli, N. (1532). The Prince. Retrieved August 20, 2016, from

        Sulphey, M., & Jnaneswar, K. (2013, September 1). A study on the Academic dishonesty, Anomia and Unethical Behaviour among Business Graduates. Journal of Contemporary Management Research, 8(2), 57-72. Retrieved from

      • Dr. Green
        From my personal experiences I would say yes, One may have to lose somethings in the interim to be an authentic leader. I have seen very few people who have been honest in their careers and suffered humiliations and criticism from their own families and of course others as well, just for being honest. It is ironic that people have to suffer, to be what they are expected to be. I personally think, to be honest you would need both honesty and courage to face the consequences of being honest. But being honest can make you a better person and may be the happiest as well. Rich (2011) says “We must be willing to go through the fire of our own denial in order to reach liberation” (para. 5).



        Rich, J. (2011, July 27). Can You Be Honest and Still Have Friends? Retrieved August 21, 2016, from

  3. Dr. Green,

    I appreciate that you brought up authenticity and how important it is to being a good leader. I could not agree more. Nothing bothers me more than listening to the vision of someone who truly does not care. Seeing that a leader is being real allows me to buy into their vision easily.
    Zander et al. write about the subject in a different light. They point out that the authentic aspects of a leader can be bad ones (2011). Some people will use it as an excuse to be rude or abrasive just because it’s the way they are. Zander et al. then provide tips to overcome these bad habits in order to become a better leader. I both your blog and their post hit on the importance of understanding yourself as a leader. I think it is important to truly understand where to stand on a certain matter and ask how you could improve. Ultimately, you will have to be authentic about it, but in the best way possible.


    Zander, Lauren and Gruenfeld, Deborah. (2011). Want to Change the World? Be resilient. Retrieved from


    • Christopher

      Hi, I like your comment it is interesting to see how authors change perspective to study this topic. DeCotiis (2015) made a “Pyramid of Authentic Leadership” I think very good to analyze the qualities of an authentic leadership. It is a good guide to auto analyze where are we standing in the pyramid and what is good or what we can work on. I think it is important we try to evaluate our leaders as well. Because we tend to work better when we know for who and what are we working for. The pyramid shows simple but meaningful ideals to become a good authentic leader, opposite from the ones you mention. Good job, I liked how you saw it from another perspective. I hope the pyramid is helpful, if you can check the article I think it is a good article.


      DeCotiis, T. (2015). Becoming An Authentic Leader. Leadership Excellence Essentials, 32(11), 35.


    • Cristopher

      What an interesting perspective. I liked how you explained that you would not heed to someone who does not care. Yes, I think every hardworking individual would have this problem. I may have brought up this example before, but I will reiterate one more time. I have worked with a manager who was never on time and who was never seen helping people but yet expected everyone else to be on time and work hard. He himself, basically was a bad example. He was not only a miserable exemplar, but also an unpleasant person to work for. Leaders who do not lead by example can only make things worse. Lipman (2014) says “I’ve personally seen high-powered careers obliterated and powerful companies almost brought to their knees by reckless leadership behavior.” (p. 2). So it important, especially for leaders to practice before they preach, as they always looked up by everyone else.



      Lipman, V. (2014, February 25). You’ll Never Go Wrong Leading By Example. Retrieved August 21, 2016, from

  4. Dr. Green:

    I think this article is relevant because of the time period we live in today. I think with the globalization and all the technological advances it is easier to reach out for information and to reach out to people. That is why I think leaders must know how to give the right treatment to their followers. If the followers do not think they are inspired or well valued, they might change companies. It is important that leaders know how to give the right value to their followers. I think the problem sometimes is that we have older generations that have not adapted to the changes in the ways the things are done. Therefore, it is harder to new generations to implement or suggest changes in the company. The leader must be great and know a lot, but if they are not open minded it might not work, because this times is more about dialogue, innovation, and teamwork. DeCotiis (2015), mentions, “The authentic leader does not have all of the ideas or answers, but develops a culture where good ideas and answers are common and valued.” I think our head coaches makes a good job asking for our opinions, we do not know everything he knows for SURE, yet I think it is good because we learn from him and he learns from us.

    DeCotiis, T. (2015). Becoming An Authentic Leader. Leadership Excellence Essentials, 32(11), 35.


    • Hi Jannette,
      I LOVE your thought about “the leader must be great and know a lot, but if they are not open minded it might not work, because this times is more about dialogue, innovation, and teamwork”. I totally agree with you at this point, effective leadership in advanced technology generation should be more flexible, adaptive, and changing behavior in appropriate ways as the situation changes. Furthermore, age differences between leaders and followers might affect the communication effectiveness if each other are not willing to learn the differences. However, George stated “no matter differences between leaders and follower, authentic leaders are mission driven and focused on results. They are able to put the mission and the goals of the organization ahead of their own self-interest” (Para. 7). They do the job in pursuit of results, not for their own power, money or ego.

      George, B. (2007, February). Discovering Your Authentic Leadership. Retrieved August 27, 2016, from
      [WC-151] vision

  5. Dr.Green, this perhaps the best topic to have a conversation on and I have thoroughly enjoyed the content in the article and of course all the responses above. I have been in a managerial role for more than 2 years and I come across cut throat situations almost every day. It is extremely hard to keep a balance between being sincere and political at the same time. Every time I come across an issue that the customer finds, we know we have made a mistake and yet we have to acknowledge that with finesse. In such situations, there is always a conflict between me and my inner self. I was once told by a learned friend of mine, “In business, you may have to make decisions that are favorable to the company than to the society”. Singh (2014) in his article “Authenticity: Being yourself in business” mentions that “As an entrepreneur, I know what it’s like to be driven by your head and not your heart” (para. 7). Yet, I admit honesty always eased me and helped me succeed eventually.



    Singh, R. (2014, July 23). Authenticity: Being Yourself In Business. Retrieved August 21, 2016, from

    • Hello Charan,

      Good observation! What impacts does politics play in being authentic? Can I leader who is a Christian be good at politics (gaining power and influence in an organization) while still being authentic?
      Professor Green

  6. Dr. Green,
    I enjoyed the read over being an authentic leader. I agree with you, to be authentic it takes trust, being ethically sound, and being practical. The most important of the three I feel is trust. Without it, an individual will never know who you truly are. Being able to tell the truth fearlessly provides a beacon that people gravitate towards. Robert Half (2014) puts it another way, ”productivity rarely flourishes in an atmosphere plagued by rumors and distrust”(p. 7). In my workplace, the more open the supervisor was in communicating with the employees, the better the productivity was out of them. Being able to be authentic also means being transparent in letting others analyze who you really are. If they see you are telling the truth and agree with what you are saying, then they will follow.

    Works Cited:
    Half, R. (2014). 30 Ways to Maximize Employee Productivity. Retrieved August 16, 2016, from

  7. Hi Dr. Green,
    This is a very interesting article which gave me more vision of effective leadership role. For my opinion, authentic leaders lead with their heart and soul. Along with fearless passion and courage, they possess insistent mental discipline. George explains how to be authentic leadership “first you will have to understand yourself, because the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself. Second, to be an effective leader, you must take responsibility for your own development” (Para. 2).
    Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine. self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, this will help you build trust from followers and increase your credibility, both of which will increase your leadership effectiveness. Understand you are, what you want to be, and how you want others to be/do. Lead yourself before you can lead others.

    George, B. (2007, February). Discovering Your Authentic Leadership. Retrieved August 27, 2016, from

    • Hi Nalinee

      You stated, first you will have to understand yourself; because the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself. Second, to be an effective leader, you must take responsibility for your own development. It is interesting Bill George´s thought. I think it is easy to give advice to others, but when it comes personal it become a life struggle. Sometimes you do not want to accept others critics about you, because either you think other people are wrong or either you are too afraid to change. It takes years of experience to become authentic leader that people will follow you. Sometimes people should listen to the others because it will make them better than they are.


  8. Dr. Green,
    According to Bill Geogre says, There are lot of leaders they do better performance of their work. He stated that Alan Mullay at Ford was one of the greatest leaders he characterized in his book. The Author says the Alan Mullay was done mistake and he admitted his mistakes in front of all employees and he brought the people and would say, who can solve this problem? This kind of attitude which makes the employee bring trust on leader who leads them in mission and vision of organizations. I believe influencing people around you is a great art. A good authentic leader own them.

    In Bible it says, “Luke 16: 10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much”. If we were holding honest and integrity even in small things the results would be greater.

    According to Dr. Green says, “Managers are often forced to act genuine with their employees because financial circumstances force them to behave in ways that are in the best interest of shareholders and investors, not their employees” (Para. 3). The results going to be failure if it goes for long term in an organization. Therefore I believe being faithful in a small thing would do greater things in life.

    George, B. (2015), Becoming a More Authentic Leader. Retrieved September 24, 2016 from

  9. Dr. Green

    I really like this article because nowadays, many people are trying to be the best leader. Personally, not everyone is made to be a leader. That is why there are Authentic leaders that are outstanding in what they are doing. According to Bill George, being authentic as a leader is hard work and takes years of experience in leadership roles. No one can be authentic without fail. The major thing is self-awareness. Authentic leaders are essential in our lives. They need to be inspiring, like great coaches. Every sport has great and inspiring coaches. Sir Alex Ferguson, during his 26 years serving as a manager, his team, Manchester United was the top team in the Europe. During that time, Manchester United did not have world class players, but with his authentic leadership, he made his team the best team. Authentic leader are able to make better lives for everyone they serve.

    George, B. (2015), Becoming a More Authentic Leader. Retrieved September 24, 2016 from


  10. Who is considered as an authentic leader? I think anyone who is willing to put in the effort and work could eventually learn to become a true leader. An Authentic leader an approach to leadership that emphasize building a leader legitimately through a genuine relationship with followers who values hit input and has a strong ethical background.
    According to author Bill George and his colleagues conducted a largest authentic leadership survey. They interviewed 125 business leaders all around the world with different race, religion and social backgrounds to understand how leaders became and remain authentic. Through their findings they were able to come to a conclusion that anyone can learn how to become and authentic leader. Bill George (2007) “Authentic leaders frame their stories in ways that allow them to see themselves not as passive observers but as individuals who learn from their experiences.” (HBR). True leader are the once that are willing learn from their past mistakes and letting go of their past and willing to move forward.

    Bill George., “Discovering Your authentic leadership: the paradox of great leadership”, Harvard Business Review, February 2007.

  11. Dr. Green,
    Bill George stated that an authentic leadership is defined as ‘a leadership style that is consistent with a leader’s personality and core values, and that is honest, ethical and practical.’ I could not agree more. It is important that society seeks to hire employees that reflect this exact image. It is not just leaders that we should expect this kind of admirable behavior from. Leaders are expected to mirror this image first simply because they are the example and the image in which their business is reflected from. If employers employ employees that reflect the authenticity that current leaders do, the business will benefit tremendously by keeping their personal branding on it’s A game. Encouragement is vital in the workplace, and it derives from leaders that are genuine in their professional relationships and seek to inspire workers daily. I enjoyed this read!
    Thank you,
    Kadrian Shelton


    Green, D. (2016, August 15). Re: Being An Authentic leader. Retrieved from

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