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Authentic Leadership: How Great Leaders Can Make a Better Tommorow

It’s been over 10 years since Authentic Leadership was formally established as a fresh leadership approach by Bill George. These days Mr George is a Harward senior fellow. However, the knowledge he gained came from the twelve-year leadership at Medtronic, when he saved the company that was facing a critical productivity challenge. How did that happen? As George’s book Authentic Leadership says, during his work there, the company’s market capitalization soared from $1.1 billion to $460 billion, averaging 35% per year. All this, thanks to his fresh, authentic approach to leadership.

Although intuition, empathy, and learning from experience take a great part of my day-to-day education, there are always science topics I like to research in order to improve my ways of doing things in life. As a manager, leader, entrepreneur, coach, and business expert, I have been following the trends in leadership for decades. By doing so, many professional articles from researchers performed all over the world came into my sight. Today, I’d like to tell you more about the leadership styles for a better tomorrow through showing you a bit of what and where I’ve learned from so far.

It’s Time for Change: Contemporary Leaders Are Looking for their Authenticity

As a book by Northouse6 says, the leadership definitions have been changing since the term itself was used for the first time. While the perception of leadership begun as a domination, through years it has transformed into personal trait or skill, influencing behaviour, and some even defined it as a transformation. He also says that we all are looking for ways to build successful leadership skills by finding out what leadership actually means, because:

“Many people believe that leadership is a way to improve their personal, social, and professional lives. Corporations seek those with leadership ability because they believe they bring special assets to their organizations and, ultimately, improve the bottom line. Academic institutions throughout the country have responded by providing programs in leadership studies.”

Lately, we have been hearing a lot about positive forms of leadership, as Avolio and Gardner3 call them in their article, where they compare “authentic leadership theory in comparison to transformational, charismatic, servant and spiritual leadership”. All these as forms of positive leadership are present today in the world in order to overcome the basic carrot-stick leadership strategy into a more profound and inspiring one. And while all mentioned are positive, meaning good for the leaders as the followers, the researchers found out that the authentic leadership is the widest and thus possibly the most inspirational of all. Let’s take a closer look.

Inspiring Leaders and Positive Transformation of Self and Others

Authentic leadership is based on transformation as it was developed from transformational leadership. Yet to understand how it can be inspirational we shall take a look at its other characteristics. Most authors (Avolio et al.2, Alberts & Bergers1, George4, Walumbwa et al.7) say the authentic leadership consists of the following capacities of the leader:

  1. Positive psychological capital
  2. Self-regulation and self-awareness
  3. Continuous education and development
  4. Strong moral value
  5. Transparency

While all above (I promise to explain them in my further posts or maybe you could check the sources to find out more about them) define the authentic leader, we still have to ask ourselves, how to reach this state. For the beginning, let’s agree that it’s actually not a state and it can never be reached. Because being an authentic leader is a lifestyle that requires neverending personal development, a daily transformation into a better person, who is showing that if you are true to yourself and have strong moral values, you can reach for the stars. And by having a team of people who are ready to fall into this drive, the success is unavoidable.

The Future Inspirational Authentic Leadership is a Way to Go for the Great Leaders

Did you know that anyone can be a leader? As George with his team5 said in the article on discovering one’s authentic leadership:

“Analyzing 3,000 pages of transcripts, our team was startled to see you do not have to be born with specific characteristics or traits of a leader. Leadership emerges from your life story.”

I hope this little research piece of mine has opened you a new insight into leadership or maybe confirmed what you’ve already known or felt in your heart as a leader. One way or another, I believe there’s nothing stopping us from becoming authentic and inspiring leaders for better tomorrow of us all. Let’s do this! 🙂

Sources:

  1. Albers, S., & Bergers, T. (2013). An analysis of the possible effects of discourse on authentic leadership. Växjö: Linnæus University.
  2. Avolio, B. J., Luthans, F., & Walumbwa, F.O., (2004). Authentic leadership: Theory-building for veritable sustained performance. Lincoln: Gallup Leadership Institute, University of Nebraska.
  3. Avolio, B. J., & William, G. L. (2005). Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(3), 315—338.
  4. George, B. (2003). Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  5. George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A. N., & Mayer, D. (2007). Discovering Your Authentic Leadership. Harvard Business Review, 87(2), 129—138.
  6. Northouse, P.G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice, 5th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  7. Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic leadership: Development and validation of a theory-based measure. Journal of Management, 34(1), 89—126.

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