According to Northouse (2016), one approach to leadership which has become prevalent in today’s society is authentic leadership. The reason for this is that past experiences have left society craving a sense of security in leadership that has been lost. This sense of security comes from a leader who is trustworthy, genuine, and transparent (Northouse, 2016). That is the definition of authentic leadership, “whether leadership is genuine and ‘real’” (Northouse, 2016, pg. 195). However, must the leader who possesses authentic leadership be “real” in order for the leadership to be real? I would argue that one of the most authentic leaders is someone who isn’t actually real: Captain America.
George (2003; George & Sims, 2007) conducted research and found that authentic leaders often display the same five basic characteristics. Each of these characteristics is highlighted by the Marvel Cinematic Universe character, Captain America, on a regular basis. The first of the characteristics is that authentic leaders understand their purpose (Northouse, 2016). These individuals truly care about what they are doing and believe that they were born to do so. In the case of Captain America, even before he became a “super soldier” and was a scrawny weakling, he still wanted to be able to fight for what was right. He didn’t care how difficult it would be for him, all her cared about was that he believed it was what he was put on this earth to do.
The second characteristic of authentic leaders is that they have a strong moral compass (Northouse, 2016). People who display this characteristic have a firm belief about what is right and wrong and are willing to stick to their beliefs. Captain America displays this when faced with the choice of giving up some of his freedom in attempt to accomplish organized peace. When he was forced to sing away some freedom in order to attain what some people hoped would be peace, he refused. He believed that freedom was more important than anything else and wasn’t willing to back down from that idea.
Another characteristic of authentic leadership is the type of relationships that leaders have with people. Their relationships are described as meaningful with strong connections and mutual trust (Northouse, 2016). One of the biggest components of this is the trust factor. Many people want their leader to be as translucent as possible, something that describes Captain America very well. In fact, he can often time be honest to a fault. There are times when being a little more conspicuous would save some people a headache, but he takes it upon himself to trust who he works with and takes pride in his honesty.
One of the characteristics of authentic leadership that describes Captain America best is his demonstration of self-discipline in regard to acting on his values Northouse, 2016). These leaders are incredibly focused on their goals and set an example to everyone around them holding them accountable when reaching their goals as well (Northouse, 2016). Captain America embodies what everyone in America strives to be. The ideals that he represents, freedom, bravery, etc., as well as the acts of strength that he displays, are the example that many of us wish to achieve.
The final characteristic is the passion that is displayed by leaders (Northouse, 2016). The focus of this characteristic is the empathy or compassion that leaders have for others. While this may not be the first thing that many people think of when they are talking about Captain America, there are plenty of example in which he displays a high level of empathy. For instance, there are two different Marvel Cinematic Universe films that show him participating in group therapy sessions for people who have been through traumatic experiences. One of which, he is the one who is running the meeting and providing others with advice.
Despite the fact that Captain America is a fictional character, the leadership that he displayed is as real as it gets. The exemplary characteristics that he displays set the bar for leaders and give them an idea of what type of leader they should be.