In the article “Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership,” Bruce J. Avolio and William L. Gardner give an in-depth background and overview of authentic leadership development theory.
Here are a few of their ideas that I found helpful:
- The idea of authenticity has a rich history in the fields of philosophy and psychology. In philosophy it goes back to the Greek ideal, “To thine own self be true”
- “The term authenticity as used here refers to owning one’s personal experiences, be they thoughts, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, or beliefs, processes captured by the injunction to ‘know oneself’ and further implies that one acts in accord with the true self, expressing oneself in ways that are consistent with inner thoughts and feelings”
- Though there are different views among experts about what authentic leadership is (how to define it), most agree that self-awareness is a key foundation
- While sincerity is about alignment between what is going on inside you and what you show others in your relationships, authenticity is more about taking action from your true self
- Authenticity is not an all or nothing proposition–there are levels of greater or less authenticity
- “…we believe authentic leadership can make a fundamental difference in organizations by helping people find meaning and connection at work through greater self-awareness; by restoring and building optimism, confidence and hope; by promoting transparent relationships and decision making that builds trust and commitment among followers; and by fostering inclusive structures and positive ethical climates.”
- One difference between authentic leadership and transformational leadership is that transformational leaders help followers to become leaders, whereas authentic leaders help followers to know themselves, and be more true to themselves, whether or not that means followers will become leaders
- One path to authenticity is through narrative—by sharing one’s own life story and making meaning of that story
- The meaning we make of our lives and experiences, and ultimately the self we create, is influenced by others but not controlled by them
- There is some disagreement among experts as to whether “positive moral perspective” is a core element of authenticity. The authors of this article believe that it is. As I interpret this, it means that you cannot be an authentic leader while at the same time being amoral or unethical.