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Should Managers Be Authentic Leaders?


Many executives wonder what academic and leadership writers are trying to explain via models. There really is not much difference except that a theoretical framework has been tried and tested while a model may be an application that leaders can learn and teach others. For instance various models are presented in an attempt to portray the concept of leadership. However, there have been several shifts in the thought of leadership, and subsequently newer approaches to leadership emerged leading up to the emergence of authentic leadership model. While there are many leadership models that leaders can apply, my emphasis will be based upon the authentic leadership model. This leadership model will be critically examined in-depth throughout the rest of the article with the main focal point being introduced here as an emerging model of leadership.

Authentic leadership provides prescriptive and anecdotal applications that leaders and supervisors can grasp. It is straightforward and uses a variety of guidelines for both leaders and followers alike. A prominent scholar by the name of Bill George explain authentic leaders as those managers who “recognize their shortcomings, and work hard to overcome them. They lead with purpose, meaning and values. They build enduring relationships with people. Others follow them because they know where they stand. They are consistent and self-disciplined. When their principles are tested, they refuse to compromise.” However, authentic Leadership has not evaded the criticism by scholars that normally are associated with leadership models and theories. For example, scholars maintain that the foundations of authentic leadership are somewhat vague, and lack of attention to how an authentic leader can adapt to every situations and present different faces to different followers while remaining authentic. They also challenge authentic leadership in terms of its theoretical foundations and approach to adapting people to the collective, and argue that this leadership style failed to consider the fact that each person is full of contradictions. In addition, Rita Gardiner, an author and scholar in the area of management at Western Ontario University in Canada, critiques authentic Leadership for the lack of a theoretical rationale by which the essential role of social and historical factors can be justified, and posits that “authentic leadership is deeply problematic because it fails to take into account how social and historical circumstances affect a person’s ability to be a leader.” For a leader to be completely authentic, telling the truth is not always easy. Therefore, is being an Authentic Leader a good thing? Yes. Does it work in every situation? No. Should a leader know about it and consider being as authentic as possible when determining his or her strengths and weaknesses. Yes.


Gardiner , RA 2011, A Critique of the Discourse of Authentic Leadership, International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 2, no. 15, pp. 99-104.

George, B. (2003). Authentic leadership: rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mostafa Sayyadi, CAHRI, AFAIM, CPMgr, works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to and Consulting Magazine and his work has been featured in these top-flight business publications.  

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