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So What is an Authentic Leader

Posted in Executive Career Management, Uncategorized | 

So. What is an Authentic Leader?

Posted on January 2nd, 2014 | Categories:
Authentic Leadership, Uncategorized

We live in an era where authentic leadership is a treasured thing. Why? Well, because it seems there is so little of it. Just watch the evening news. Get a belly full of the garbage that is passed off as “leadership,” and it’s no wonder.

As we head into the new year, it’s time to take inventory. Many leaders are reluctant, because it involves looking at themselves. And why do that? Because their careers, the organizations they lead, and the key stakeholders in their lives depend on their leadership, their trust, and reasonable expectation by others that they are empathetic to the worlds in which they live.

When we impact others inauthentically, they eventually take action to escape what they sense as a violation. Think about it. Despite what you think about the economy, you would be surprised to learn how many seasoned leaders and members of high potential talent pools jump ship just to get away from executives they perceive as jerks.

Do we have your attention now?

There are many definitions of “authentic leadership.” Some are pretty much fluff or pure, corporate-speak junk. We aim to do much better than that.

In our experience
advising boards and senior executives, certain factors become obvious in assessing authentic leadership. While facets of authentic leadership evolve with the times, there are components that are requisites. And so, some of our thoughts on authentic leadership:

  • An authentic leader understands that success hinges on relationships, and that relationships hinge on conversations. He or she is a master at developing and growing meaningful relationships through coherent conversations. That means she or he is intensely aware of the impact she or he has on others, both verbally and non-verbally.
    • An authentic leader is authentically deployed with the function, industry, business and culture in which he or she operates. That means he or she derives great meaning from his or her work, demonstrates comprehensive understanding of the function, industry or sector, and sees himself or herself as an ongoing student of the industry. He or she is not leasing space for a paycheck, dreaming of doing something else.
    • An authentic leader places high priority on self-development, and the professional and personal development of his or her key stakeholders. He or she knows self-awareness gained through ongoing interaction with qualified professionals who are not “internal coaches” is perhaps the greatest leadership advantage in which to invest. He or she is willing to re-invent him or herself to become a more effective leader.
    • An authentic leader understands that everyone has “blind spots,” and is intensely aware of his or her blind spots. That means he or she understands that, under certain conditions or situations that may be stressful, behaviors that are counterproductive can surface as defense mechanisms. It is amazing how often people in arguments or disputes are operating from their blind spots, without knowing it. When operating from our blind spots, interactions we have with others can be ineffective at best, and disasters at worst.
    • An authentic leader has evolved past seeking blame when things do not go as planned or as wanted, to seeking information and assistance through relationships cultivated when getting out of a jam. Moving boldly ahead in challenging conditions is the name of the game. That means a leader recognizes that the favorite organizational standby—placing blame to feel powerful when the chips are down—no longer works.
    • An authentic leader owns her or his mistakes. Publicly. In a timely manner. Then, he or she demonstrates effective changes to make things right.

There are certainly additional attributes we associate with authentic leadership. But, looking at 2014 and the opportunities and challenges that will come along with it, see what happens when you put what is outlined above into action. More to come.



John P. Schreitmueller, PCC, ECP-BC, is CEO of Atlanta-based Resolute Consulting Group LLC, a specialty practice for executive, leadership and developmental coaching, counseling and consulting.

Examples noted in the article above are anecdotal. Names, organizations, industries, situations and other criteria are strictly edited for confidentiality. Any resemblance to an actual person, persons or organization is purely coincidental.

Reference utilized:
Conversational Intelligence, by Judith E. Glaser (Brookline, MA, Bibliomotion, Inc., 2013)

Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos

Copyright 2014 by
Resolute Consulting Group LLC
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