Authentic leaders are seen as genuine, or “real.” Authentic leadership is still forming as a theory, but more research has been done the past few decades due to people’s insecurity in leadership and their desire to have leaders who are honest and “good” (Northouse, 2016). My current supervisor, Beth, whom I just started under a month ago, is a great example of an authentic leader according to Bill George’s practical approach to authentic leadership.
George’s model focuses on the different qualities an authentic leader has (or can develop). If a leader demonstrates these qualities or characteristics, they will be a more authentic leader and their followers will respond positively and the organization will benefit. There are five dimensions described by George, and each are associated with an observable characteristic: purpose and passion, values and behavior, relationships and connectedness, self-discipline and consistency, and heart and compassion (Penn State, 2017). Beth displays all of these.
Authentic leaders have a sense of purpose, knowing what they are about and where they are headed (Northouse, 2017). Purpose manifests itself as passion. Passionate people are interested in what they are doing, are inspired and intrinsically motivated, and care about the work they are doing (Northouse, 2017). About a month ago, the work at the office was restructured. A new unit was created for a specific part of our job. I was placed in that unit under Beth who was selected to lead. Beth demonstrates passion for this new job, as she shows she cares about figuring out the best way to accomplish the work, and spends a lot of time running reports and brainstorming ways to help the new unit succeed.
Secondly, authentic leaders have values, know what they are, and don’t compromise on those values (Northouse, 2017). This quality manifests itself through the leader’s behavior, authentic leaders acting in accordance with their values. Beth clearly values that work is does according to policy and in the best interest of our clients. She does not let people take shortcuts if they are against policy, and will not compromise the rules. I see her as a better leader because of this, compared to other supervisors I have dealt with that do not follow policy at all times.
Thirdly, authentic leaders build relationships with others and have connectedness with their followers. They are willing to share their experiences and listen to others’ experiences, and are communicative with their followers (Northouse, 2017). Beth does this often, she talks to us about her work and personal life sometimes, and listens when we talk about our lives as well. She is open about what changes are occurring, the thought process behind them, and demonstrates respect of all of us. Because she connects with us, we respect her in return, understand what is going on, and are more committed to her goals and ideas.
The fourth dimension of authentic leadership is self-discipline, which gives leaders focus and determination: ability to focus on a goal, and move forward towards that goal even in the face of setbacks (Northouse, 2017). This is consistency. Self-disciplined leaders remain cool, calm, and consistent during stressful situations (Northouse, 2017). Beth has demonstrated this a lot in the past month. Implementing our new process has come with a lot of confusion, stress, and situations coming to light that need adjustments. Beth has consistently kept her cool and kept all of us on track. She stays focused, adjusts what needs changed, keeps us in the loop, and moves forward.
Finally, authentic leaders have heart, which shows in their compassion. They are sensitive to others’ needs and are willing to help them (Northouse, 2017). Beth has done this by noticing when we are stressed about the process (it has caused our workloads to increase dramatically and deadlines to shorten immensely). She checks in with us as a group and individually to see how we are dealing with everything, and what she can do to relieve the stress. She seems like she is genuinely concerned about her followers’ well-being and wants to alleviate as much as she can.
Overall, all of these qualities of Beth are what make her an authentic leader. Her passion, behaviors, ability to connect, consistency, and compassion are all inspiring. It is clear through these actions that she cares about her job, the work, how to accomplish it, and how to keep her followers happy, productive, and focused. We know that no matter how stressful or complicated this new process is, Beth has our back, wants to find the best approach to get the work done, and will help us genuinely. I wish more leaders would display this level of authenticity.
Northouse, Peter G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Pennsylvania State University. (2017). Lesson 12: Authentic Leadership. In PSYCH485: Leadership in Work Settings: Spring 2017. Retrieved from: http://psu.instructure.com.