Authentic Leadership  

February 20, 2014
I recently read an article entitled, Discovering Your Authentic Leadership, from the Harvard Business Review. The article discussed a study based on the question, “How can people become and remain authentic leaders?” Over 125 leaders were interviewed to uncover how they learned their leadership skills. The people interviewed ranged in age from 23 to 93 and came from a variety of occupations. The surprising finding was that there are not universal characteristics that make a person a leader. Leadership emerges from individual’s life stories not a skill set that they modeled from a text book or leadership philosophy. The overall message of the article is that leaders need to be true to themselves and not try to emulate someone else.

Individuals do not have to be born with leadership characteristics. The key is to be open to discovery and commit to developing oneself. The article discussed common characteristics of becoming an authentic leader.

These include:
    Learning from your life story
    Knowing your authentic self
    Practicing your values and principles
    Balancing your extrinsic and intrinsic motivations
    Building your support team
    Integrating your life by staying grounded
    Empowering people to lead

Many authentic leaders interviewed in this article experienced difficulty early in their life and learned how to overcome obstacles. Self-awareness is a critical component of becoming an authentic leader. Accepting constructive criticism and feedback helps a leader become more self-aware. Leaders have to be honest, recognize their faults, and be willing to put in the hard work of making needed changes. Building relationships is another important step in becoming an authentic leader. Success does not come at the hand of one person. It takes a team approach to move organizations forward. Authentic leaders need to continually build their support team with trusted individuals who will be open and honest with the leader. Empowering others within the organization is another important aspect of authentic leadership. The mark of a successful, authentic, leader is to show results over a period of time.

This article helped me reflect on my own ideas of leadership. It reinforced that everyone can be a leader but they must stay true to themselves to become a leader of others. This article gave me ideas to help me continue to develop my personal leadership qualities. As the second semester begins in our ESU 10 schools, my hope is that administrators, teachers, and students continue to discover their authentic leadership capacity.

-by Denise O'Brien, Professional Development Coordinator

Source: George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A., & Mayer, D. (2007). Discovering your authentic leadership. Harvard Business Review, February 2007, 129-138. Retrieved from