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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

Authentic Leadership

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #168

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In an era where transparency and trust are paramount, authentic leadership has become increasingly significant. This leadership trait emphasizes the importance of leaders being genuine, transparent, and true to their core values while guiding others. Authentic leaders foster trust and integrity within their organizations by aligning actions with fundamental principles.

Chuck Schwahn, in his influential work "Total Leaders," highlights the profound impact of authentic leadership on organizational success. Schwahn advocates for leaders who are both competent and deeply aligned with their true selves. He argues that authenticity is essential for cultivating a culture of trust and respect, which ultimately drives organizational success.

Bill George, author of "Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value," extensively discusses how authentic leaders inspire and engage their teams. According to George, these leaders are transparent about their strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. Authentic leaders are self-aware, lead with their hearts, and establish deep connections with their teams, enhancing overall organizational effectiveness.

Michael Kernis and Brian Goldman's work on authenticity emphasizes the personal and professional benefits of authentic leadership. They highlight authentic leaders exhibit self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing, and an internalized moral perspective. These traits contribute to the leader's personal growth and create a supportive and ethical work environment.

As the demand for ethical and trustworthy leadership grows, the need for authentic leadership becomes increasingly apparent. Leaders who embrace their true selves, maintain transparency, and lead with integrity can build stronger, more resilient teams. This blog explores the principles of authentic leadership, drawing insights from renowned authors and thought leaders to understand what it means to lead authentically.

The Core Principles of Authentic Leadership

Using Kernis and Goldman's research, let's define the four core principles of authentic leadership. According to the researchers, authentic leadership is built on four core principles: self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing, and an internalized moral perspective. These principles are essential for fostering trust, respect, and ethical behavior within teams while promoting personal growth.

Self-Awareness: The Cornerstone of Authentic Leadership

Self-awareness is vital to authentic leadership. It involves a profound understanding of one's strengths, weaknesses, values, and emotions. This requires continuous self-reflection and a commitment to personal growth. In "Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value," Bill George asserts that self-aware leaders can better align their actions with core values, fostering integrity and trust within their teams. This alignment enables leaders to form genuine relationships with their followers.

Relational Transparency: Building Trust Through Honesty

Relational transparency involves open and honest communication between leaders and their team members. It is about being genuine in interactions, sharing true thoughts and feelings, and maintaining consistency between words and actions. Chuck Schwahn, in "Total Leaders," underscores the importance of authenticity in fostering a culture of trust and respect. Transparent leaders encourage an open and communicative environment, enhancing team cohesion and loyalty.

Balanced Processing: Embracing Diverse Perspectives

Balanced processing refers to a leader's ability to objectively analyze information and consider multiple perspectives before making decisions. Authentic leaders seek out and value diverse opinions, ensuring their decisions are well-informed and fair. Michael Kernis and Brian Goldman highlight that balanced processing involves critical thinking and the willingness to accept feedback and admit mistakes. This approach helps leaders make fair and balanced decisions, strengthening their credibility and the trust of their teams.

Internalized Moral Perspective: Leading with Integrity

Internalized moral perspective involves leaders aligning their actions with core values and ethical standards. It requires leading with integrity and moral conviction, ensuring that decisions and behaviors align with personal and organizational principles. Bill George and Chuck Schwahn emphasize that leaders who follow a strong moral compass inspire trust and respect. By consistently demonstrating ethical behavior, authentic leaders create a culture of integrity that permeates the organization, promoting ethical conduct at all levels.


In today's world, transparency and trust are more important than ever. Authentic leadership is crucial for creating genuine connections and building strong, resilient teams. By embracing self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing, and an internalized moral perspective, leaders can inspire trust, respect, and loyalty within their organizations. As organizations strive for ethical and effective leadership, the principles of authentic leadership provide a clear path toward achieving lasting success and creating a supportive, ethical work environment.

Reflective Questions

  1. How can you leverage your unique personal experiences and values to create a more authentic and impactful leadership style?

  2. What strategies can you implement to encourage your team members to share honest feedback and diverse perspectives, and how will you ensure this feedback is genuinely considered in decision-making processes?


  1. George, Bill. Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. Jossey-Bass, 2003.

  2. Kernis, Michael H., and Brian M. Goldman. A Multicomponent Conceptualization of Authenticity: Theory and Research. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 38, 2006, pp. 283-357.

  3. Schwahn, Charles J., and William G. Spady. Total Leaders: Applying the Best Future-Focused Change Strategies to Education. Rowman & Littlefield Education, 1998.


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