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What does authentic leadership look like?

Sadly, I can assume quite confidently that you too have met countless accounts of poor leadership over the span of your life and professional journey, either in your own workplace, by attending to disheartened friends talking about it, by browsing in contemporary research papers or simply by observing the general work culture around you. It’s hard to believe that it isn’t evident that the negative impact on the people trapped in dysfunctional organizational relationships is severe and affects life beyond the workspace.


I hypothesize that when there is a struggle or a problem in an organization it starts from the top. I believe that is crucial that the top person understands what authentic leadership looks like before being able to live and facilitate it. If leaders don’t know what authentic leadership looks like then it will impact the entire organization all the way down through the different layers of responsibility – and not in a welcomed, desirable way.


Now, what can be done about it to improve this situation and enhance wellbeing, purpose, genuine motivation and effectiveness at the work place? How can the quest for authenticity enter the corporate world?





From the point of leadership development, it is inevitable to welcome a different way of cultivating and leading a work environment that is fertile and sustainable. There is no doubt that the future needs leadership that has the potential to elevate employees in the long-term, such that employees achieve greater levels of both well-being, meaningfulness and responsibility themselves.


There is evidence that job-related well-being affects both the employee’s and employer’s overall life satisfaction. The organizational effectiveness of transformational leadership has been demonstrated in a growing body of Positive Psychology research, showing its benefits in profit-oriented organizations, in the educational context, in sports teams, in military organizations or in self-managed teams.


Research by Sivanathan et. al. (2004) has defined four qualities that are essential in authentic leaders. They are:


1) Idealized influence: Transformation leaders choose to do the right thing in line with their moral commitment to themselves and their followers.


2) Inspirational motivation: Transformation leaders inspire their followers to break through their own perceived performance barriers and to be and do better than what they ever thought possible.


3) Intellectual stimulation: Transformation leaders no longer take the expert role. They don’t provide the answers for others but encourage them to develop their own critical sense to enhance confidence and self-efficacy.


4) Individualized consideration: Transformational leaders are dedicated to a close relationship to their followers. They show their concerns for the employee’s development as well as their well-being. They do this by deeply caring and empathizing with the employee’s experience.


Now, if these points were to be taken seriously then leaders would no longer have the stigma of being the most visible, loudest person in the room that has the most to say. Sadly, in an inauthentic workspace, the leader wants to shine themselves to please those more senior even when it means taking credit on behalf of others and keeping the team effort in the shadow. Instead of stimulating new ideas and solutions in the team, an inauthentic leader will disempower the team by wanting to be seen as having the answers themselves. They want to be perceived as caring, yet are not there to attend to the needs of the others.



...AND WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?

Do these qualities resonate with you? If so, why are they important to you? Are there other qualities that you desire in an authentic leader?


Do you find this topic interesting?

Then I recommend the following article to you:


Sivanathan, N., Arnold, K. A., Turner, N., & Barling, J. (2004). Leading Well: Transformational Leadership and Well-Being. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (pp. 241–255). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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