What’s the big deal about “Authentic Leadership”? Part 1


Last week I was part of a mentoring conference call where dozens of leaders listened to my friend Bo Boshers (Lead222) interview me on the topic of leadership.

I loved the opportunity and was honored at the privilege to invest in leaders!

Leadership questions always seem to move to the topic of “authentic leadership” and our conversation was no exception.

I understand the value of authentic leadership. I’m attracted to other authentic leaders. I appreciate a leader who is transparent. Being an authentic leader is a style of leadership that I personally pursue.

So, here’s my question that I’d love input on: why does authentic leadership all of a sudden seem “in”? It’s very vogue in the leadership language/genre. But, was there ever a time when being an authentic leader was “out”?

Share your thoughts here.

Tomorrow, I’ll compile some of the your input and share my thoughts.


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  • Jonathan_guse

    In my opinion, every once and a while people have that “AHA!” moment, but it should really be labeled as a “duh!” moment.  Authentic leadership is a very desirable form of leadership because it is very relational in nature.  As people we are very relational (whether we admit it or not), some not as much as others, but the need for relationship is still there.  I think that we get focused on the process or project so much so that we forget about the relationships and then have that moment that reminds.  That moment comes in the form of reflection or some event that happens or in some humbling conversation we have with one of our volunteers or our senior pastor.  Leadership is multi-dimensional and we have to find a balance, difficult though it is.

    • Doug Fields

      could it be that “reflection” is what leads us to those AHA/duh moments?

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    At first when I read the title I thought you would be discussing Autistic Leadership. Apparently I misread. 
    I’m not sure that Authentic Leadership was ever out. People just thought that it was. Everyone would look up to this individual and they would idolize that person and hold them up on a pedestal thinking they could do no wrong. Then when they wanted to become leaders they felt the need to live up to this preconceived notion that leaders are perfect. But as we know that is just not the case.
    Some leaders tried to act like they were but it just ended up biting them in the end. Authentic leadership takes some of the pressure off a leader. When we are upfront and honest about being sinners just like everyone else (maybe not going into detail about every single sin we commit but making it known that we do mess up) it gives us some breathing room. We should still strive to be just like our heavenly Father. When we mess up, we need to repent and get back up. 

    • Doug Fields

      I agree with this statement from experience (Authentic leadership takes some of the pressure off a leader), but I’m not sure most leaders fully understand this…the pressure to be a “together” leader is strong.

      • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

        As I was typing out my reply yesterday I realized I did not have a complete understanding of what I was getting ready to say. It’s true that leaders don’t always get it. We talk about being authentic but we still put pressure on ourselves (and maybe some of it is Satan planting thoughts as well) that we have to be absolutely perfect or we have failed all of mankind.

  • Jbeers

    I think authentic leadership is being emphasized even more because while students are more connected then ever today, they seem to have too few if any meaningful connections.   As many young people are realizing, they may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but not one true friend who truly understands them or will be there for them in time of need.  Leaders unfortunately have been swept away at times with the pace of life that has hindered the ability to lead authentically.  Jesus modeled authenticity in part because of the TIME he spent with his followers.  Maybe the cry for authentic leadership is simply a cry for more meaningful TIME to build authentic relationships.

    • Doug Fields

      “Time” is definitely a factor in this whole discussion. You can’t rush authenticity.

  • jorgeb

    Being an authentic leader should be every leaders goal!
    I don’t believe it was ever in or out it’s just more noticeable now.
    I believe what happens is a lot of us get caught up trying to impress others
    & wanting to be like others when we have THE BEST example in JESUS.
    We should follow His example and be inspired and motivated by others.
    AUTHENTIC LEADERS ARE NOT THE MOST POPULAR!

  • http://kylecorbin.blogspot.com/ Kyle Corbin

    I feel like there has been a status-quo for a long time of people accepting what leadership was. We have seen so many leaders rise and fall that people are getting more honed in with their b.s. meters.
    You can look up and listen better when a b.s.-meter is down.
    I asked one of my students about this and he explains it this way: I know the leaders at our church aren’t perfect and I don’t expect them to be. I want them to be honest, because when you aren’t being honest I can’t listen to you.

    Is it a new idea, I don’t think so. But I believe it is something we need to continually battle and the battle is becoming more fierce.

    It is said in “Sticky Faith” that we need to teach youth that it is about trusting in God, not just obeying him. We need to model both, and I think it will take every leader a long journey to get better at it, but we need to!

  • Doug Raraigh

    I think speaking about being a leader is so very important…and you hear about it a lot. But what about being a “follower?” we are all called to follow at some point: follow Jesus. Follow the authority put over us (especially when you but heads with the senior pastor). Being part of a team, lone ranger youth ministry is usually not such a good idea. What are your thoughts Doug?

  • Fred Randall

    Our example will always trump what we say.

    1 Peter 5:3
    Don’t be like a ruler ordering people around. Don’t be like a ruler over people you’re responsible for, but be a good example to them

    We don’t make a lasting impact by telling people what to do. We make a lasting impact by showing them how to do it.

  • Paul Records

    It’s easy to recognize leaders who are real – partly because it’s so easy to recognize those who are not. To me, “real” leaders know who they are and are comfortable being who they are. The “fake” leaders I’ve met always seem to be trying to be someone they’re not, as if in an identity crisis. Also, leaders who are real are not impressed by who they are or by what they do. Unauthentic leaders take themselves too seriously. My father was a very authentic/down to earth pastor. He said, “you should never be impressed by yourself or by your success.” Though indirectly, that statement seems to speak to the heart of authenticity. The authentic leaders I know all have common traits: they are “down-to-earth,” practical, approachable, personable, emotionally safe, etc. When around authentic leaders, I never feel as if I have to cover up/hide my imperfection or the gaps in my learning.

  • one

    Great thoughts!
    If leadership is influence, then authentic leadership would be influence from an authentic position. The contrast to that (or non authentic) leadership would be influence from a non authentic position ie: manipulation… If leadership means to do first(show by example) non authentic would be to (tell with out experience).
    I am a fan of authentic leadership because it doesn’t try to manipulate, but rather lead! Not from an overseer position but from an influential position. In the beginning God gave man rule over the fish, land, animals, etc… But not other men. Always interesting to me that when Jesus shows up clearly in authority, he doest power trip, manipulate, but authentically leads, with authentic influence which when is truly authentic, it’s passed. :) #2cents