The complexity of the authentic leadership process is viewed from three different perspectives, the first perspective is based on the intrapersonal view of the leader, which stems from within the leader, and integrates the leader’s self-regulation, self-concept, and self-knowledge. From this perspective, Authentic leaders were described as being originals and not copies because they are genuine and they lead with conviction. These leaders are thought to have been inspired or created by their own life experiences which have helped them to develop as an authentic leader (p. 196). The second way of viewing an authentic leader is through the interpersonal perspective, which aligns the leader with the followers and the inter-relationship that is created from the leader’s efforts in conjunction with the follower’s responses. It is from this interaction that the authenticity develops; this is considered a reciprocal process because the leader and the followers not only affect each other but depend upon each other (p. 196). The third way of viewing an authentic leader is from the developmental perspective, it is thought that this, is not a fixed-rate, but something that can be developed over a lifetime, or triggered by a life event (p. 196). Also, it is seen as being grounded in positive psychological qualities, having strong ethics, and composed of four interrelated components, self-awareness, internalize the moral perspective, balance processing, and rational transparency. It was said that over one’s lifetime and authentic leader develops upon each of these behaviors (p. 196).
As can be seen from the three perspectives of the authentic leadership approach, it is still being evaluated, and there are many divergent opinions.
Additionally, Authentic leadership can be viewed from two different approaches, the practical approach, and the theoretical approach. The practical approach emphasizes the step-by-step guide of “how to” be an authentic leader. A second approach is a theoretical approach, still in its infancy of development, describes the fundamental components and how they relate to one another (p. 200).
For this blog post, I would like to focus on the practical approach and how to become an authentic leader just like Michelle Obama. With this “How to Guide,” and an excellent role model.
Can anyone be an authentic leader?
“Remember who you always were, where you came from, who your parents were, how they raised you. Because that authentic self is going to follow you all through life, so make sure that it’s solid, so it’s something that you can hold onto and be proud of for the rest of your life.” – Michelle Obama
I had always considered Michelle Obama to be a strong woman with her own convictions and to put it simply; she is as real as they come. When I read her quote, it exemplified the ideas that I already had about her. Michelle Obama initiated a nationwide get a healthy program called Let’s Move, and it was developed to help aid in the health of America’s children (Letsmove, 2010). There was a bit of controversy over the government playing a parent’s role in their children’s health, and mandating what can be served in the school lunchroom (NBC news, 2014). The leadership style that was demonstrated by Michelle Obama during this, and many other situations, was clearly an authentic leadership style.
The practical approach of the authentic leadership evolved from Bill George’s real-life experiences and interviews (George, 2003; George &Sims, 2007 as cited by Northouse, 2016). Based on his experience George found that these leaders knew themselves and were directed by strong core values as well as having an honest need to serve others (p. 197). George found that there were five fundamental characteristics of an authentic leader: First, having an understanding of ones’ purpose. Second, strong values for the right actions (p. 197). Third, building a trusting relationship (p. 197). Fourth, showing self-discipline and actions in line with values (p. 197). Fifth, heartfelt compassion towards their mission (p. 197).
According to George (2003), as cited by Northouse (2016), authentic leaders demonstrate that they possess purpose and what they do and that they seem to know who they are and what they are about (p.197). It would seem that because they have a purpose as well as the knowledge of themselves, they tend to know where they are going and what they are looking for. George also explained that authentic leaders are motivated through intrinsic rewards that inspire them to move closer to their goal (p.197). Additionally, they have a tremendous desire to follow their interest and pursuing what they care about, and their passion drives them Towards what they desire, which is fueled by their sense of purpose (p.197). This can be demonstrated and Michelle Obama’s authentic reflection of her past behavior, and by her current self-awareness. During an interview discussing the let’s move initiative she talks about before she became the first lady, her and her family were like everyone else and often made bad food choices, which led to her children’s pediatrician telling her that she should make some changes (Let’s Move, 2010, 2:00). Michelle Obama said “I wanted to bring the lessons that I learned, to the White House” (Let’s Move, 2010, 2:09). She demonstrates that she has a purpose and she is knowledgeable about herself and how challenging it was for her to maintain good eating habits in the past (Let’s Move, 2010, 00:15). Michelle Obama indicated her awareness about it being challenging to make healthy lifestyle choices, and that’s what needs to be changed, and she had a goal, as well as a plan to achieve her goal (Let’s Move, 2010). These statements and actions demonstrated that she has a deep-rooted desire to help the nation and the children of our future. It seems clear that she is intrinsically motivated to pursuing what she genuinely cares about.
According to George (2003), as cited by Northouse (2016), the second characteristic of an authentic leader is having strong values and behaving in the right way (p. 199). The authentic leader demonstrates a deep understanding for their own values by always acting in a manner that supports their values, even during challenging times the leaders never compromise their values and according to George as cited by Northouse (2016), they take these opportunities to strengthen their values further (p. 199). It was said that they have a “True North” and that they always have a clear vision of the direction they need to be going (p. 199). This was clearly demonstrated during a public address when Michelle Obama says “I don’t want to look back with regret and think that we gave up on our kids because we felt that this thing was too hard, or too expensive” (NBC News, 2014, 02:05). Michelle Obama was fighting back against the opposition of her cause, and she demonstrated a clear vision that presented the values that she felt American children deserved, she demonstrated that she had a “true north.”
According to George (2003), as cited by Northouse (2016), the third characteristic of an authentic leader demonstrates the ability to build a strong relationship with others. The leaders engage in sharing their own stories with others, and listening to others’ to tell their stories; it is this back-and-forth communication, that, builds bonds creates trust and establishes closeness. It is these actions that result in the follower’s loyalty and commitment towards the leader (p. 199). Michelle Obama has accomplished many relationships through the progress of her goal. She has advocated for her cause and received massive support from many extraordinary organizations, to name a few, the NBA, NFL, and major food distributor (The Obama White House, 2010, 04:00). It was also demonstrated that Michelle Obama built many relationships with young individuals who benefited for the cause, Such as Tammy Nu, who’s back-and-forth communication led to a sense of trust, gratitude, and security. One additional example that is not related to the Let’s Move program is not long ago, after Michelle Obama is out of office, in her book Becoming. Michelle Obama is sharing her entire stories in the most truthful manner (Virgin, 2018). Michelle Obama also says “To really get to know people, we have to go deep into those stories,” The stories that she is referring to are the ones that are hard to tell, and cause vulnerabilities (Virgin, 2018, 3:13).
According to George (2003), as cited by Northouse (2016), The fourth characteristic of an authentic leader has self-discipline (p. 199). This self-discipline helps the leader to reach their goals by assisting them to stay focused and determined even during stressful times, and the leader can be consistent by staying focused on the target and remaining calm and relaxed (p. 199). It is these behaviors that demonstrate to the followers that the leader’s actions are predictable, and therefore the followers have a sense of security. The authentic leaders can focus on their long-distance goals by following their inner compass (p. 200). Through the presentation of the Let’s Move Kick-Off speech, Michelle Obama satisfactorily demonstrated her ability to stay focused on her goal, and as she said “it won’t be easy, we won’t get there this year, and we probably won’t get there this administration” (The Obama White House, 2010, 25:45). Michelle Obama was steadfast for years towards her goal. It was also seen in the conference NBC News (2014), that she was feeling the opposition from political issues, but she continued to remain calm and relaxed.
According to George (2003), as cited by Northouse (2016), the fifth characteristic of an authentic leader has heartfelt compassion (p. 200). They can be sensitive and polite to others while allowing themselves to be open and demonstrating a need to help (p. 200). Authenticity and compassion are thought to be interconnected, as a leader develops compassion, they discover how to be authentic, and compassion can be demonstrated to building interpersonal relationships participating in community services and supporting diversity (p. 200). It is essential that a leader is sensitive and knowledgeable about cultural racial and other diversity issues (p. 200). During a press conference, Michelle Obama showed her heartfelt compassion when she got a bit choked up and said: “It is unacceptable to me, not just as the first lady, but as a mother” (NBC News, 2014, 00:49). Michelle Obama was referring to, the other political party trying to dismantle the Let’s Move program, resulting in unhealthy lunches for the children.
Based on this evaluation, I do think that the step-by-step guide could be followed to help enhance individuals authentic tendencies, but I don’t believe that everybody can be an authentic leader. Perhaps only those individuals who are willing to look inside oneself and be honest about who they are, then they can further develop.
Let’s Move (2010, Feb 8). The First Lady Introduces Let’s Move. [Video file].
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHA1gneMy8s
NBC News (2014, May 28). Food Fight: Michelle Obama Guards Her ‘Let’s Move’ Campaign. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=michelle+obama+let%27s+move+initiative&view=detail&mid=22FFCF4DC77E979BD27E22FFCF4DC77E979BD27E&FORM=VIRE
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (Seventh ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
The Obama White House (2010, Feb 9) Let’s move kick-off. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70H7m_CkwoU
Virgin (2018, Dec 11) Meet The Author: Michelle Obama. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqcevP1eAbE&t=1712s