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Define Authentic Leadership as a tool within leadership development. What are the advantages and disadvantages, and why would leadership development benefit from further insight into authentic leadership

Leadership Development

The authentic leadership style is a leadership approach which focuses on building ability of leaders by concentrating on establishing honest relations with followers and valuing their input while taking decisions. The authentic leadership concentrates on fulfilling the requirement of different stakeholders instead of focusing on personal gain. The characteristics of an authentic leader include genuineness, emotions, quality of heart and mind, mission-driven, and focused on long-term goals. This report will focus on analysing characteristics of authentic leadership as a tool within leadership development and assess the benefits of further insight into authentic leadership. The report will also evaluate advantages and disadvantages of authentic leadership style. Further, the report will include the benefits of authentic leadership over other leadership theories and highlight it as a component of leadership development theory.

Leadership development is defined as the practices which are focused on improving capabilities, confidence, and skills of leaders; it concentrates on expanding the capacity of individuals to perform the role of leaders in an organisation. As per Avolio (2010), leadership roles include performing various activities such as building strategies, providing training, communicating instructions, monitoring performance, and developing abilities of others. These functions are both formal and informal, the formal parts being the authority to take responsibilities and make a decision, and informal elements include providing purpose, guidance, direction, to others. Leadership development assists in achieving organisational objectives which are the key to business success.

As per the research conducted by Centre for Creative Leadership, more than 65 percent of the corporations, which has established an effective leadership development program, find improved results as compared to companies without the program. Similarly, around 86 percent of the firms with efficient leadership programs are more responsive to the market changes as compared to 52 percent corporations which did not have such program (CCL, 2017). Globalisation has created dynamic market conditions which encourages competition between organisations, due to which requirement of effective leadership has grown substantially. The corporations can establish a leadership development program to improve the skills, confidence, and ability of their leaders (Komives and Wagner, 2016).

An authentic leadership style is a leadership approach which concentrates on creating leader’s legitimacy by building honest relationships with followers. The style is based on ethical and moral principles which are considered as essential qualities in modern leaders. The term popularised after the book written by Bill George called “Authentic Leadership” in 2003, but the concept of authentic leaders has been around for centuries. The concept focuses on various senses of leaders such as honesty, passion, identity, and self-awareness, and building them through leadership development. Many leaders and leadership coaches who consider ethics and peoples over profit maximisation have embraced this approach in their leadership style (Kruse, 2013). Modern corporations use it as a tool within leadership development because of the popularity of Corporate Social Responsibility principles.

As per George (2003), authentic leaders are genuinely interested in benefiting other members of a corporation rather than increasing profits or shareholder value maximisation. They take decision while considering emotions and interest of multiple individuals. Authentic leaders develop their skill through time; they work hard to overcome their weaknesses. Basic principles of authentic leaders include purpose, meaning, and value; they implement these principles while taking organisational decisions and building relationships. The followers of authentic leaders prefer to follow them because they focus on the interest of all individuals, and they have a straightforward attitude (Neider and Schriesheim, 2011). In case of ethical dilemmas or conflicting situations, authentic leaders use their principles to find solutions, and they did not compromise in the situation. George (2003) stated that authentic leaders accept their shortcomings and work hard to remove them because they accept the fact that leadership requires a lifetime of learning and personal growth. Therefore, authentic leadership is considered as a tool within leadership development because it is beneficial for corporation and individuals.  

Authentic Leadership as a Tool in Leadership Development

Many experts believe that further insight into authentic leadership can improve the process of leadership development. The primary goal of leadership development is to prepare leaders so they can director other individuals for achieving common objectives of the organisation; authentic leadership is based on similar concepts. Further insight into authentic leadership can provide various methods that can assist in achieving the objectives of leadership development. The corporations can implement such methods into their leadership development program to ensure that leaders are focusing on the overall development of the enterprise (George, Sims, McLean, and Mayer, 2007). The popularity of Corporate Social Responsibility principles require the organisation to follow multiple ethical guidelines, therefore, further insight into authentic leadership will assist leaders in fulfilling organisational and personal moral duties.

  • Genuineness and Self-awareness:The key attribute of an authentic leader is his/her authenticity or truthfulness. Genuine leaders are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and emotions and they did not hide them from their followers. As per George, Sims, McLean, and Mayer, 2007), authentic leaders take decisions based on their personal experiences rather than following someone else blindly. They determine whether something is morally right or wrong based on their personal experience which is what makes them authentic and trustworthy. They admit that self-actualization is a lifelong journey and peoples have to keep improving themselves through learning.
  • Focused and Mission Driven:Authentic leaders put organisational goals and objectives ahead of their self-interest. They perform their job with efficiency in pursuit of results rather than achieving power, ego or money. In case of conflicting situations, they did not lose sight of goals and encourage others to do the same (Woolley, Caza, and Levy, 2011).
  • Quality of Heart and Mind:Authentic leaders take decisions using their heart and not just their mind. The leaders are not afraid of showing their emotions, feeling, and vulnerabilities; instead, they use them to connect with their followers. A key characteristic of an authentic leader is straightforwardness with empathy. Leader’s straightforwardness is important to achieve targets successfully, but lack of empathy made straightforwardness just cruel. Emotions are a critical part of human beings, and authentic leaders accept this fact and consider them while taking decisions and interacting with followers.
  • Long-term Goals:George (2007) stated in his book that authentic leaders focus on maximising long-term shareholders’ value rather than achieving quarterly targets. George himself focused on maximising shareholders’ value as CEO of Medtronic. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, apply similar principles as well. They both realise that development of corporation and individuals require hard work and patience, but long-term goals benefit everyone over time.

George (2010) gave the motto of authentic leadership in his book by stating that “True North, Discovering your authentic Leadership”, this metaphor provides significance of genuineness in leadership. The leaders are requiring using qualities of their heart and mind to find the “True North” in business sector. Following are advantages of authentic leadership in the modern business sector:

  • Authentic leaders are able to establish trustful relationships between the corporation and other members including, employees, suppliers, shareholders, government, and many others. The focus of authentic leaders is to empower the employees and supervise them in performing their objectives in an honest and empathetic manner. George (2010) shows the significance of trust in True North by providing an example of companies such as Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom, these corporations wind-up due to lack of leadership genuineness (Forbes, 2002).
  • Authentic leaders can build honest and positive relationships which reward them along with the organisation. They listen and give importance to peoples’ ideas, and they disclose necessary information to peoples during a transection which might affect them in present or the future (Ofori, 2008).
  • They ensure that the work is completed with high moral and ethical standards; instead of self-gain, they focus on the development of organisation along with subordinates. Howard Schultz from Starbucks is an excellent example because instead of own benefits he focused on the issue of employees’ healthcare and gave them access to better healthcare plans.
  • Maintaining consistency in authentic leadership style can assist in expanding and sustaining the development of a corporation. Other businesses preferred to work with authentic leaders because they did not compromise their values in ethical dilemmas; the passion and dedication of authentic leaders towards work improve the business of an organisation (Ladkin and Taylor, 2010).
  • Undoubtedly, the primary drawback of authentic leadership is that it did not have a unified or coherent theory. Various experts add their viewpoint to the theory of authentic leadership with time. Therefore, proper evaluation of advantages and genuineness of authentic leadership is difficult (Walumbwa et al., 2008).
  • Northouse (2015) provided in his book “Leadership: Theory and Practice” that the theory of authentic leadership require that leaders are motivated by ethical and moral values such as justice and community. But, there is uncertainty around this concept since it is not clear that these values assist in influencing authentic leadership.
  • The moral values of authentic leaders might cause contradicting objectives within a corporation if they did not align with benefits of shareholders and company. The leaders might face a situation in which fulfilling the interest of stakeholders might conflict with shareholders interest, for example, taking decision whether to distribute retain earning in dividend, bonus or charity.
  • The authentic leader considers the interest of each stakeholder and members which get affected by his/her decision due to which decision-making process becomes longer and takes a significant amount of time.
  • Developing authentic leadership require years of dedicated commitment, patients, and training which makes it a considerably long process.

When compared to the other leadership styles, the authentic leadership style proves to be realistic and genuine in comparison. The authentic leadership style focuses on development of different individuals rather than self-interest of the leader. For example, the servant leadership style is based on similar principles as the authentic style; both focus on empowering peoples, implementing ethical values and overall organisational growth. But Servant leadership style gives a set of characteristics which are necessary to be fulfilled by the leaders, on the other hand, authentic leadership is a character-driven approach. The authentic leadership style develops on natural characteristics of a leader rather than providing a set of guidelines. The set of guidelines lack emotional characteristics which are necessary for a leader while taking organisational decisions (Dennis, Kinzler-Norheim and Bocarnea, 2010).

Other leadership theories include transactional and transformational leadership styles. The transactional leadership style focus on encourage followers using transaction which benefits them, for example, the leader might give a bonus to its employees for motivating them to improve their productivity. In transformational leadership style, a leader works with followers to recognise the requirement of change and direct followers toward such change through inspiration. The leader inspires followers to take an interest in their work and guide them based on their strength and weaknesses, for example, giving a motivational speech regarding the superiority of hard work to encourage them to improve their productivity (Dumdum, Lowe and Avolio, 2013). Both of these styles are better from an organisational perspective, but from stakeholders’ perspective, it can be detrimental, for example, a leader might distribute bonuses, while his/her real motive is to expand working hours for personal profits. These leadership styles did not consider the emotions of their followers which is necessary for their development. Therefore, the authentic leadership style is superior because it is a character based approach which focuses on the emotions of the followers along with organisational development.

Characteristics of Authentic Leaders

Modern corporations and professionals prefer to adopt authentic leadership style because it fulfills the requirements of Corporate Social Responsibilities and focuses on overall organisational development. The authentic leadership can be considered as a component of leadership development theory because it incorporates the fundamental principles of leadership development, which includes ethics, authenticity, and result based model (Hodlin, 2010). The components of leadership development ensure that leaders are fulfilling their duties towards corporation and other individuals which are affected by its operations.

The primary objective of leadership development is to help managers developing their leadership skills. The components of leadership development include honesty, integrity, self-awareness, vision, courage, and communication skills, these components improve the authenticity of leadership (Clapp-Smith, Vogelgesang and Avey, 2009). The authentic leaders possess certain characteristics such as self-awareness, honesty, genuineness, truthfulness, and quality of mind and heart. The characteristics of authentic leadership style match the components of leadership development program, therefore, the authentic leadership is considered as a component of leadership development theory.  


To conclude, the authentic leadership style is a tool within leadership development which focuses on improving the ability and skills of leaders which benefits corporation, stakeholders, and society. By conducting further insight into authentic leadership, experts can discover new methods for efficiently implementing the principle of authentic leadership style in leadership development. Authentic leadership style is better than other leadership theories because instead of focusing on self-benefit it concentrates on organisational and stakeholders’ interest. The authentic leadership style can be considered as a component of leadership development theory because both are based on similar principles. The leadership development programs of modern corporations should focus on teaching authentic leadership style to managers because it is beneficial for stakeholders, corporation and society.


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