Authentic leadership is an approach to leadership that emphasizes the leader’s honest relationships with followers who value their ideas and are built on an ethical foundation. Authentic leaders are positive people who are very open and determined to do good. An example of authentic leadership I have had in my life revolves around a professor of mine through Penn State Behrend.
There are multiple definitions of authentic leadership. The three main ways to define authentic leadership include interpersonal, intrapersonal, and development. Interpersonal shows that authentic leadership stems from the relationship between leaders and followers. How both the actions of leaders and followers react to one another. Intrapersonal includes the leader’s knowledge, how the leader behaviors, and how the leader is as a person. The third way is developmental. Developmental revolves around experience, and learning experiences, rather than trait based. “Avolio and Gardner (2005) basically state that life events (such as a crisis or highly positive experiences) that change a person’s comfort zone bring forth the person’s authentic leadership ability” (PSU, Lesson 12: Authentic Leadership, 2020, p. 1).
My professor at Behrend not only taught me about psychology, but taught life events as well. I would come to her for help, and she would listen to my side of explaining things as well. I would say my actions toward her were respectful because that is how she treated me. My professor had a PHD in psychology so she had the knowledge to help me through picking my college courses, what certifications to get, and numerous psychology theories we discussed. She was very humble in her achievements, and overall a good human being. She left her job in human resources to become a professor to help students, as well as doing volunteer work for our city. Going all the way to getting your doctorate, you learn things along the way. I believe after all her schooling, she wanted to be a professor to teach her students tips to get through school.
There are two approaches to authentic leadership: practical and theoretical approach. Practical approach comes from Bill George’s Authentic Leadership Approach, and that is what I really want to focus on that relates to my psychology professor. This focuses on the characteristics of authentic leaders. “George describes, in a practical way, the essential qualities of authentic leadership and how individuals can develop these qualities if they want to become authentic leaders” (Northouse, 2016, p. 197). During his research, it was founded that authentic leaders had a genuine desire to help others. The five dimensions of authentic leadership are purpose, values, relationships, self-discipline, and heart.
My Penn State Psychology professor had a purpose, she knew where she was going with her degree: to help others. Authentic leaders know their values, and behave towards others based on these values. My professor knew her path, and it was a path to make herself a better and to better others. In difficult situations, where a student was not understanding, or difficult times through school, she knew her path and continued to fight through the hardships. There was a time I did not understand a theory, and she helped me through her office hours dissecting the theory and explained it to me piece by piece. “Authentic leaders have the capacity to open themselves up and establish a connection with others” (Northouse, 2016, p. 199). Authentic leaders build strong relationships. For example with me, my professor was able to share her story with me. Maintaining a career while being a mom, and a wife like myself. I had a sense of trust with her that I never had with any other professor.
My professor also demonstrated self discipline to me. It shows focus and determination. There were numerous times in my college career where I wanted to give up, but the special thing I have inherited from college is that I see where my professors are after schooling. Despite hardships, college can give you a really good career. The most important aspect is having a heart. Being sensitive to the light of others, opening one’s self to others, and being willing to help others gives a positive impact to a leader’s followers. My professor was always available, and always willing to help me learn and understand life, and school work.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Pennsylvania State World Campus. Lesson 12: Authentic Leadership. 2020.