Authentic Leadership Theory

I love learning and was very excited to know more Authentic Leadership Theory.  

In my quest to learn more about the development of this theory, I stumbled upon the work of these thought leaders:

  • Gordana Nikolic and Sandra Grudic Kvasic
  • Bill George.

What you will find here is a compilation of what I gleaned from their work, as well as links to more information.

Authentic Leadership Theory

When delving into any subject, I always like to start with definitions.  

Why?  Because we can hear the same words but understand them differently, drawing differing conclusions.  So I will begin with definitions then discuss the Theory.

Definition of Authentic Leadership

According to Nikolic & Kvasic, authentic leadership theory is relatively new. 

This is their definition:  "Generally speaking, authentic leadership is defined as a set of related behaviors that characterize the way leaders influence followers, make ethical decisions, and use information."  

In essence, authentic leaders are seen as "genuine and real."

Authentic Leadership Model

Bill George published his work on authentic leadership in 2003.  His Model describes five (5) characteristics of authentic leaders:

  1. Sense of Purpose
  2. Distinct Values
  3. Relationship Building
  4. Goals & Self-Discipline
  5. Genuine Heart

1.  Sense of Purpose

Without a sense of purpose, one cannot understand their place in the world.  Which makes it impossible to accurately understand their place in the world of work. 

What do I mean by that?  We carry our sense of purpose with us everywhere we go.  If we are unclear on what that is, it is very difficult to reach your potential.  

And if the leader is unclear of their sense of purpose, it is impossible to help others discover theirs. 

I really love this:  "Authentic leaders won't need to fake a sense of purpose."

2. Distinct Values

Values indicate what is important to us.  They drive our thinking and feeling, and ultimately our actions.

Our values are reflected in how we prioritize our time and where we direct our energy.  

Authentic leaders are credible.  They are anchored by their values.  You can take what they say to the bank, which means they are true to their word.

3. Relationship Building

Authentic leaders are fully aware that they need people.  And they are not afraid to let you know.  They know nothing gets accomplished without a team and teamwork.

This type of leader masters interpersonal savvy.  They can connect with and establish rapport with a variety of people.  

Since lasting relationships are built the foundation of trust, authentic leaders take great care to begin from a position of trust and build from there.

Goals & Self-Discipline

Leaders are concerned for people and concerned for results.  Therefore, goals are established up-front and the where-with-all to achieve them are the result of self-discipline - both the leaders and their team members.

Authentic leaders know the way, go the way, and show the way.  They are like lighthouses- anchored in fair and stormy weather- guide lights.

5. Genuine Heart

You may be familiar with this quote by Theodore Roosevelt, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Authentic leaders let you know how much they care about you as a person.  Of course they care about results, but not at the expense of caring about their people.

Bill George On Authentic Leadership

Want To Know More?

For more insights on Authentic Leadership Theory and examples of authentic leaders, please take a look at these:

Coming January 2024

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About Coach Gwen



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