Discovering your Authentic Leadership

Discovering your Authentic Leadership

Summary of the Article

Authentic or ideal leadership is something that most people would like to have or imitate. Indeed, it has taken many books and seminars to delve and try to understand how leadership can be nurtured in any environment. However, as the writers observe, none of the various methods are close to identifying what constitutes or comprises the ideal leader. In their article, “Discovering Authentic Leadership,” Bill George et al (2007), have tried to point out the various requirements of leaders who wish to climb successfully in the leadership ladders and leave a legacy without reinventing the wheel. The authors argue that people have tried to find an answer to the leadership issues that confront managers in many sectors for a long time. However, according George et al (2007), a leader cannot be a true one by just imitating what others have done in the past. This is because it would be difficult to gain the trust of followers by imitating the work or ideas of other leaders.

In this well drafted argument, George et al (2007) have tried to show their readers how to develop the five dimensions of authentic leaders based on thier leadership experiences. The five tenets of authentic leaderships include; purpose, values, heart relationships, and self discipline. At this point, the authors attempt to illustrate how genuine leaders can set themselves as outstanding lessons for others indeed, the authors persuasively articulate that authentic leaders are mission-driven in creating successful organizations. Within their investigative approach, the authors note that leaders are not born with unique characteristics or traits. In addition, they believe that leaders should not wait for opportunities to discover their potentials.

There are several approaches identified by the authors to help leaders became authentic. First, one should lay up their life stories in a way that they see themselves, not as passive observers of their lives, but as people who can develop self-awareness from their own experiences. Secondly, a person should have a well-grounded life to keep a strong support team in the pursuit of company ideals. George et al (2007) try to bring forward an argument on how leaders can interact and inspire their organizations to achieve growth. The leader can develop efficiency out of interaction with the company employees; hence, he/she will be acceptable to all because of the quality he or she exhibits. In addition, the writers posit that authentic leaders have a focus. They are people who are after certain missions and live within their values as they try to satisfy the needs of their stakeholders. George et al (2007), continue to say that, authentic companies should have a good governing system and more so, such organizations should invest in leadership succession for more generations. According to the article, passion drives people to succeed. In summary, the authors argue in favor of a new leader or fresh ideas. A leader who can be relied upon to provide solutions to the current socio-economic issues bedeviling the corporate world. In doing so, they trash the notion that outside forces can influence leadership. This paper will evaluate the argument of George et al (2007), and provide pros and cons on the arguments advanced.


Authentic leadership is a relatively new concept that tries to link personal values with how a person executes the leadership responsibilities. Different theorists view the concept in different dimensions. However, they all attest that awareness of the individual self and making the right decisions are key to being an authentic leader. The key aspects of an authentic leader can be conceptualized into a model that connects the leaders’ thoughts with their actions. On their part, George et al (2007) have carefully directed and guided those who might wish to become authentic leaders. For those readers who are keen will note that the authors have laid down important approaches that answer questions on matters that bring conflicts within the organization. For instance, personal values might conflict with the interest of the organization. Authentic leadership has brought to us clearly lessons for leadership from the researchers personal lifetime experience and as leaders in diverse field. They conclude by saying that authentic leaders have great rewards awaiting them in future. This is because; whenever you lead people you achieve certain goals, and this is pleasing when the results are long term and sustainable.

Becoming an authentic leader has been one of the most challenging issues in the 21st century. It is costly in terms of learning oneself and what one would like to achieve in his/her leadership. As a leader, one needs to have the goals that he would like to achieve, either long term or short term. How to achieve this is actually the biggest concern here as pointed out in the article. George et al (2007) have tried to point out that as an authentic leader you cannot rely on past leaders principle. This is imitation and cannot be relied upon to bring the best solutions. Therefore, following others can never make one authentic. You need to have your own internal personal driving forces to propel you to make the best out of yourself (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). According to George et al, 2007, no leadership tips and tools are required but one should focus on personal leadership development. No laws are required to become an authentic leader. I agree with the findings of the authors when they say that every individual has some elements of leadership whether in business places, in the government or nonprofit making sectors. The only problem is making the discovery of these elements in us.

How Authentic Leaders Behave

The executive role is one that demands good execution of policies in the pursuit of organizational goals. An authentic leader must be himself or herself. That is, he or she must be connected with something deep inside his or her being that is authentic. Indeed, an authentic leader is one who looks at those deeply embedded attributes that are relevant to the strategic focus of the business. From the article, Bill George et al (2007) have delved on this issue in a unique way. They explore the ways in which people pursue to becoming authentic leaders. In summary, it is possible to construe some ways or behavior that characterizes authentic leaders. From this analysis, it might be deduced that an authentic leader is someone who learns form his/her life story. By learning ones ways, an authentic leaders can then become principled in their disposition and approach to various issues. In this ways, they can be courageous in their undertaking and in what they might perceive to be unethical on the part of others. As it will be seen later in the discussion, this might be a recipe for disharmony within the organization. Authentic leaders also share their live histories with others. Although this might be true but to some extent, it may not be applicable to some people. There are those who do not shy from sharing their live histories whereas others might feel it is unnecessary. To such people, there is a compatibility with this point. However, to some others, it might be a worse case scenario.

People with experiences like those of premature deaths of a family member, might not look at it as a motivation from a difficult experience but as victims of circumstances. It only applies to those who embrace this as challenge to transform them in becoming an authentic leader just because it is life story. It is with rare people like Novartis chairperson and CEO, Daniel Vasella, who faced serious multiple difficulties in attaining authentic leadership (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

The other aspect abut authentic leaders is that they evaluate themselves. Personal assessment provides the building blocks from being an authentic leader. This can be gleaned from the article where the authors make statements like “knowing your authentic self.” This is critical because it helps one know his or her weaknesses. In addition, it helps the leader relate his or her experiences with the situation at hand. It is true that many people make short time achievements but later fall down just because they did not take time to understand their ‘self’. Their focus is only on material things like money and other tangibles. To such a category of people, achieving success is easy but the problem is how to maintain success. Accordingly, they come to learn later in life that they lack something: “knowing your authentic self.” If this occurs too late, then one will have failed in becoming an authentic leader. In essence, an authentic leader will invest valuable time in discovering this vital ingredient (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

Failure to do so will lead to failure in achieving what one purposed. Indeed, this may affect other organs in the company and may in turn become a very big challenge. For instance, understanding one’s personality can help in developing a better understanding of others. On the other side, others may look at this point (knowing oneself) as time wasting. They will rarely have time to think about it and all what they are focused on is success and nothing else. Just as the saying goes “cheap is expensive,” it later turns to be very costly.

Pros of Authentic Leadership

Authentic leaders create a unique working relationship with their followers. It is true that practicing ones’ values and principles is a challenging issue. For serious authentic leaders who want to maintain the climb, they will use relationship building as a plus in their activities. The basics here are on beliefs, convictions, and values transformed to real action that later develop the principles under which you lead. Those authentic leaders, who are mindful about others in work places, create good working environments for others (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

They gain fame and respect out of their efforts. Indeed, such relationship, which revolves around respect, trust, and mutual support, can propel a company to great heights. However, there a re those who seek fame and promotion from company executives just because work is done through threats and intimidation. This is a big failure since they do not remain in their positions of authority for long (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). What should be understood clearly here is that authentic leadership, as espoused by the writers can restore the much-needed confidence in an organization, especially during times of great difficulties. This is because it boosts the credibility of the leaders in the eyes of the employees. However, echoing the words or methods of others might bring ridicule on the parts of the leaders (Kouzes & Posner, 2002).

Another pro of authentic leadership is that the leaders are noticed easily, and as a result, they can get a higher profile than their peers. In addition, authentic leaders accept themselves and accordingly, they become happier than those who do not appreciate their ‘self’(Avolio & Gardner, 2005). Central in the argument of authentic leadership is the notion of discovering the true self. Being oneself will lead a leader to align his or her actions with the self. The other advantage of identifying oneself is that it profiles authentic leaders as optimist. In times of crisis, people need to see this optimism and resilience reflected in the characters of the leader (Luthans & Avolio, 2003). Moreover, authentic leaders have a great influence on others. The actions of authentic leaders are received favorably, thus increasing the impact of their outcomes.

Cons of Authentic Leadership

As has been highlighted, authentic leadership is unique as it is centered on the self to inspire change in the organization. However, not every thing in this new leadership style might sound good. There are aspects of authentic leadership that raise many questions than answers. First, authentic leaderships disapproves the historical and social factors that might influence a person’s leadership approach. In agitating for self-development and improvement, George et al (2007), assert that a behavior of a person reveals his or her authenticity, thus demonstrating the uniqueness of each individual. George et al, 2007 says, “Discovering your authentic leadership requires a commitment to developing yourself” (George et al, 2007). The point they want to pass across is that people should focus on themselves rather than the outside world in discovering authentic leadership. This ignores social and environmental factors that shape individuals as well as their leadership styles. Indeed, other researchers oppose the position taken by the authors on this subject. For instance, Hannah Arendt’s uniqueness model is absolutely the opposite of authentic leadership. In line with the Arendt, I believe that the concentration of character traits inherent in a person cannot be a good measure of one’s uniqueness. This is a poor assessment on how one can be a symbol of authentic leadership. Authentic leadership misrepresents reality by focusing on certain aspects of a person’s individuality, while at the same time doing away with others that are critical in leadership. Environmental and social factors have a big role to play in shaping a leader’s disposition. Authentic leadership, as George et al (2007), make us believe, compares people with one another in terms of their achievements or failures. This ignores the distinctiveness in each person. Moreover, a person cannot wholly know his or her abilities as is argued in the article. Indeed, it is true that the way a person looks in the eyes of others is different from how one sees himself or herself. Therefore, the knowledge of oneself pushed by George et al in the article as well as proponents of authentic leadership is completely flawed.

The other con of the authentic approach is still based on the analysis of the self as the starting point in being an authentic leader (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).  As highlighted, George et al, believe authentic leaders should carryout a self-assessment of their abilities. This means, what makes one an authentic leader lies within the self. Although this in itself is not bad, potential problems arise when the leaders see other people as likely sources of inauthenticity. In the end, one might see himself or herself authentic and yet withdraw from the group. The danger here is that authentic leadership can have the opposite effect of withdrawing from relationships. This contradicts the whole notion of leadership. Leadership is about providing a way to achieving overall goals and objective of a company. Followers cannot be changed if leaders retreat into the cocoon of self. It is the duty of the leaders to offer his or her subjects alternative ways of making it in the world (Kouzes & Posner, 2002).

Another disadvantage is that the concept ignores history completely. Although authentic leadership provides a framework of engaging in the whole subject about leadership, it would be catastrophic to ignore history. For instance, the financial crisis of 2007/08 has had similar effects like the one of 1930s (Navarro, 2012). Response mechanisms adopted by vinous leaders across the world, together with their outcomes, are evident to all. The chronicles of such events can provide future leaders with a basis of making their judgments whilst addressing similar events. With a little adaptability, it would make people great if they embraced the ideas of others. For instance, Keynesian model of stimulating demand has been in the minds of many economists over the years. The US can be said to have overcome its economic woes by embracing the tenets embraced by John Keynes (Navarro, 2012). However, the practical realities of today are significantly different from those of the Keynesian era. Therefore, a little innovation has helped mandarin in Washington contain a further decline in the American economy. True, future responses might be different since the world is dynamic. Indeed, this approach shifts the emphasis on leadership from personal traits and dispositions. This will enrich the variety of options available to a leader in tacking the issues of the day. In addition, shifting from self to others can help managers imaginatively represent their future and creates similar paths for others to follow.


Every leader would like to be considered authentic, a person who can trusted and whom people can judiciously follow. In this regard, it is great if one invested in the gray areas of honesty and transparency in their undertakings. Indeed, such people should develop a unique personality by being real to themselves as well as others. The article by George et al is a good starting point in understanding the subject of authenticity and how it can be discovered. As it is with many subjects, there are varied theories about leadership or leadership styles. In any organization, it is possible to see remarkable differences between the leadership approaches adopted by the top brass. However, this ought not to be the case. Leadership is about providing the necessary framework to achieve growth. Every organization must have a vision, goals, and objectives to achieve. All these require tactics and strategies to achieve. In doing this, some managers can be ingenious in their approaches. They might device innovative ways of achieving the objectives as well as overcoming their competitors. However, there are several similarities in all the approaches. Despite the fact that leaders should be unique in their styles, they need to incorporate the values embodied by others. Therefore, it is paramount to borrow what others have done in the past. However, each environment is unique. Therefore, a modification of leadership styles will be required to match the environment the leader is operating.





Arendt, H. (1993). Between Past and Future. London: Penguin.

Avolio, B. J. & Gardner, L. W. (2005). Authentic Leadership Development: getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly 16, 315-338

George, B. Sims, P., McLean, N. A. & Mayer, D. (2007). Discovering your Authentic Leadership. Retrieved from

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2002). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Navarro, A. (2012). Global Capitalist Crisis and the Second Great depression: egalitarian system models for change. London: Lexington Books.

The Cognitive Fitness Consultancy. (2009). Authentic Leadership: do the right thing whilst being yourself. Retrieved from

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