Authentic Leadership Theory: A Quick Guide

Authentic leadership is one of the leading types of leadership and management style highly practiced in workspaces and organizations at significant scale.

And provided the success it achieved for an organization is only making it a more desirable training program in the companies.

This type of leader practices these transparent behaviors that help them build a strong relationship with their team members and create an environment for them where they don’t just accomplish more significant goals but also improve by themselves.

Also, such a leadership style promotes creating an environment where team members are open to speaking their minds and putting their opinion out there. They are more participative and inclusive towards the process and the leader.

Authentic Leadership Theory is basically all these sets of qualities and traits found in authentic leaders that can be learned, trained, and practiced commonly in any leadership style or professional environment.

So, we will learn more about this theory, what it entails, the benefits of authentic leadership, and its components.

What Is Authentic Leadership?

The term ‘authentic leadership’ was first used or coined by Bill George in the book titled ‘Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value.

This book was released back when some massive corporate or organizational scandals like WorldCom and Enron were going on.

So, such extensive and high-level corporate crimes provoke people to demand a more excellent value in trust and authenticity.

All of this emerged an outcry promoting better leaders, someone worthy to trust, and to the best words, ‘authentic leaders.’

Well, that has continued since then, and the world does ask for much more authenticity in leadership. It is a highly expected quality or trait in leadership and management.

On the other hand, it’s not like corporate crimes and manipulations have stopped or reduced. They are only rising and showing up in big names.

Like we have seen with Mercedes and VW lying about their emissions. And then we also saw the BHS pension scandal with Phillip Green. This still demands a leader with spine, substance, and stand.

What Is Authentic Leadership Theory?

Authentic Leadership Theory is a set of qualities, skills, and values that a leader should possess to become an effective, impactful leader, project manager, or business director.

Authentic leaders are someone who is primarily known for being quiet and down to earth. They are expected to be this genuine person can rely on.

Such leaders have this innate quality of being all-good people. Even though being ‘good’ is entirely essentially subjective, there are still some particular behaviors that are core aspects of an authentic leader.

It is something that is outlined in their characteristics and overall style of leadership. Such a set of behaviors are broadly highlighted in an authentic leadership theory.

In short, Authentic Leadership Theory is a definition explaining the set of behaviors, skills, and qualities that anyone can learn to become a better authentic leader.

Authentic Leadership Components

Self-Awareness: Self-awareness is essential for authenticity as leaders need to be familiar with themselves, how they perceive the world, how others see them, and more. They also need to know the impact or effect of their actions.

Transparency: Authentic leaders must be transparent in their motives to drive their actions. They need to have greater clarity and strong communication skills.

Balance: Having the ability to navigate through all tasks simultaneously or consecutively, the dynamics and project management is essential for authentic leadership. They must be able to balance themselves without stretching themselves too thin or sacrificing the quality of one part with another.

Strong Sense of Morality: What should guide an authentic leader is their true sense of morality or the inner compass, helping them make the right decisions and be fair to everyone.

Top Components Of Authentic Leadership Theory: Explained

  • Self-awareness
  • Fair & Balanced Approach
  • Transparency
  • Mission-Driven
  • Long-term Focus
  • Strong Sense of Morality
Authentic Leadership Theory


Leaders must have a strong sense of self, including their strengths and weaknesses.

They need to have some values to uphold, some principles to stand by, and the kind of honesty that can only come from a significant amount of self-awareness.

It is crucial to demonstrate authenticity in your leadership if you are unsure about who you are and what you actually stand for.

Being self-aware, you c
embrace authenticity also means displaying your strengths and weaknesses to your team members.

You have nothing to hide. You don’t have to play games. You don’t have to remember your lies. When you are authentic, you let yourself tell the truth and build trust with your team members.

Even when your team members or employees make a mistake, they are more likely or comfortable to come to you and admit it.

It is crucial for leaders because self-awareness is the key to growth in leadership. It also helps you strengthen the various components of authentic leadership.

Self-awareness helps you in all different aspects of leadership, including empathy for your employees, perceiving the feedback gained, acting as a better leader, and more.

Being Fair & Balanced

Making a decision is one of a leader’s most important roles, and they must stay honest and trustworthy to their choices, especially when they areare opposed and challenged.

But then, they also have to be perceivable enough to take account of another point of view, considerable towards alternative opinions, before making the decisions.

So, overall, there is a balanced approach required for a leader. Either way, it is not recommended. However, sometimes either one of the approaches becomes more needed than the other.

You need to be open for discussion and receive ideas and opinions of others, your team members, so they feel heard.

On the other hand, you also need to be firm on your ground and stick to your values and what you view right as a leader.

The right mindset is to open yourself for a time, so you can willingly accept criticism, alternative viewpoints, other ideas, oppositions, and any other counterarguments.

And after understanding all the points of view and assuring everyone is heard and assured of having all you can get on the table, now the ultimate decision needs to be yours to take.

However, this also depends upon what type of leader you are. Authentic leaders, mainly, create such an environment for their team members where they can feel safe and encouraged to speak their minds even when they are entirely opposite arguments.

So, a leader needs to be fair and have the ability to process a balanced approach towards decision-making and how they carry their leadership.


Authentic leadership needs to be transparent, as much as it can be.
There is no place for passive aggression, emotional conflict, subtle messaging, hinting, convoluted feedback, or ingenuity toward people, actions, or work.

It just simply doesn’t work for a blossoming workplace environment. Definitely, not a way to lead.

Leaders must be straightforward and honest with their employees. You need to have a genuine approach to everything.

Transparency improves communication and builds trust. It also prevents conflict to a great extent and brings clarity which further invites focus and hence, success.

It is on the leader’s shoulders to foster authenticity in the workspace, which begins right from them, and their style of leadership as well.

Even if it feels like you keep telling people their mistakes and telling them things how they are, which throws you in a bad light, it is necessary in the long run.

And being a good leader and communicator, you will be able to impart how transparency within is a good thing and how it will help them.


Authentic leadership demands being mission-driven. This means that Authentic leaders are required to put the organization’s goals in front of their self-interest.

They are expected to prioritize the mission set by the company rather than their individual interests or goals. It becomes about playing for the team, for the company, rather than just for self.

So, if there is a decision to make, a choice that, on one side, benefits the company and, on the other side, the leader him/herself, then the obvious one must be opting for the choice in regards to the company.

Such leaders want their teams to be successful and bring results. They aim to reach their targets and grow along with their self-growth.

Long-term Focus

Long-term focus is evidently a crucial characteristic or trait that is often lacking in a leader.

Even sometimes, good leaders don’t have it. So, this something comes from true wisdom and learned experience.

Long-term focus is a lot about patience and playing long-term games. These leaders rank high in the status scale of the world’s leading big companies and organizations.

Leaders need to focus on long-term rather than just short-term goals.

Indeed, short-term goals are important, too, and they have their own benefits as milestones and motivating factors for the team members.

But as a leader, they must be long-term focussed individuals and plan accordingly. Other skills help in doing so, such as patience, perspective, and perception.

Without long-term focus, an authentic leader cannot have the vision to move, which only hampers the company’s future in the long run, even if there are small successes every once in a while.

Why Is Authentic Leadership Important?

Authentic leadership is essential because it promotes the foundation quality for effective leadership and brings it into focus, which is authenticity.

Not just that, due to focussing more on authenticity, many other related core competencies, qualities, and soft skills get highlighted that are crucial for effective and much more outstanding leadership in the long run.

Authentic leadership and Authentic Leadership Theory both double down on open communication among the team members and focus on its benefits, not just for project success but also for the company’s long-term vision.

Here in the next section, there is more essential points on why the Authentic Leadership style is excellent for management and leadership in the modern workplace in the context of job satisfaction and employee morale.

The Role of Authentic Leadership Theory In Boosting Employee Morale & Job Satisfaction

If you think on the ground level why an employee feels low morale in the first place, you would know that most of the time, the reason is not being noticed or addressed.

And that makes their professional life or career less meaningful. They do not feel they are progressing, or their efforts are recognized on every level.

The best part about Authentic Leadership is the ultimate focus on developing open communication and, even more, a strong relationship between the seniors/ management to employees.

Authentic leaders are more connected to their teammates or employees. It is primarily because they pay attention to them in detail, compliment them, notice them and address their efforts.

In fact, such leaders are more emotionally connected or invested in their employees at some level, so there is more to be accountable for.

For example, if you are an employee, and connected with your manager, have a great relationship with them, and often connect with each other on different levels, you wouldn’t want to disappoint him or her or let them down.

Benefits Of Authentic Leadership

Increased trust: Authentic leaders are genuine and transparent, which can build trust with their followers. This trust can lead to greater employee loyalty, commitment, and engagement.

Improved relationships: Authentic leaders can connect with their followers personally, improving relationships and creating a more positive work environment.

Enhanced communication: Authentic leaders are effective communicators, able to articulate their vision and values clearly. This can lead to better communication and understanding between leaders and their followers.

Greater innovation: Authentic leaders encourage creativity and innovation by creating a culture of openness and trust. Employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and taking risks, which can lead to new and innovative solutions to problems.

Improved performance: Authentic leadership can improve performance by creating a sense of purpose and meaning for employees. When employees feel that their work is valued and aligned with the company’s mission and values, they are more likely to be motivated and perform at their best.

Greater resilience: Authentic leaders are able to navigate difficult situations and setbacks with grace and resilience. This can inspire their followers to do the same and create a culture of resilience and perseverance.

Key Takeaways

  • Authentic leadership is a style of leadership that emphasizes transparency, self-awareness, and genuineness.
  • Authentic leaders are able to build trust and credibility with their followers by being transparent and genuine.
  • Authentic leaders are self-aware and understand their strengths and weaknesses, which helps them to lead with integrity.
  • Authentic leadership theory is based on four components: self-awareness, relational transparency, internalized moral perspective, and balanced processing.
  • Authentic leaders build positive relationships with their followers and create a sense of purpose and meaning in their work.
  • Authentic leadership can positively impact employee engagement, job satisfaction, and performance.
  • Authentic leaders can navigate challenging situations with grace and resilience, which can inspire their followers to do the same.
  • Authentic leadership requires ongoing self-reflection and a commitment to personal growth and development.


What is authentic leadership?

Authentic leadership is a leadership style that emphasizes transparency, self-awareness, and genuineness. Authentic leaders are able to build trust and credibility with their followers by being transparent and genuine.

What are the key components of authentic leadership?

The key components of authentic leadership are self-awareness, relational transparency, internalized moral perspective, and balanced processing.

How does authentic leadership differ from other leadership styles?

Authentic leadership differs from other leadership styles in that it emphasizes transparency, self-awareness, and genuineness. Authentic leaders focus on building positive relationships with their followers and creating a sense of purpose and meaning in their work.

What are the benefits of authentic leadership?

The benefits of authentic leadership include increased trust, improved relationships, enhanced communication, greater innovation, improved performance, and greater resilience.

How can I develop authentic leadership skills?

You can develop authentic leadership skills by focusing on self-awareness and understanding your strengths and weaknesses, practicing transparency and openness with your followers, developing an internalized moral perspective, and engaging in balanced processing.

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