Authentic Leadership

Jan 31, 2012   //   by admin   //   KMT Blog  //  No Comments

Who or what is an Authentic Leader?  I have pondered this question for many years while working my way through my education, career transformations, relationships, and interactions with colleagues and friends. I always seemed to come up with more questions than answers, until now.

Many refer to an authentic leader as ‘one who has influence’. Does that mean a good manager, a good person or a good paycheque? Is this leadership?  Is this authentic?  True, to be an authentic leader one must have influence, but leadership is much more than merely influence.

The term ‘leader’ no longer represents the idea of one person leading others – absolute authority.  Authentic leadership is about creating community, attracting the best ideas from the most people where “nobody is as smart as everybody.”   In reality, great leadership is about empowering other people to realize their own full potential – helping to foster greatness in others. Exceptional leaders lead by getting out-of-the-way and letting others step up to the plate.

Authentic leaders have a passionate need to collaborate with others. They are aware they cannot always be right on everything and must seek wisdom and guidance from experts whose style and values complement their own.  Becoming an authentic leader takes time, focus and practice. Authentic leaders must foster the confidence to step out of the limelight and allow others to shine in the light of recognition.

Authentic leaders desire to achieve a collective end goal. They, of course, want the best possible outcome and that means ensuring that every person on the team feels a part of the team, that they have something vital and important to contribute. Authentic leaders help facilitate that experience.

In our executive training sessions, we provide leadership strategies to business executive, managers, owners, and teams to enlighten them on how to become an authentic leader through clarity, honesty, loyalty, community, and commitment.  All the tools required to become a great leader who successfully guides and leads others.

We harness many of the leadership skills of past and present leaders as fundamental guidelines for developing these skills in our clients. We develop leaders who lead so naturally that you don’t even notice how well they do what they do because they have mastered the art of authentic leadership.

Through my research, I discovered many common, great characteristics that brought clarity to my question of what is an authentic leader. Let’s take a quick journey through history to some of our admired leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr. (Minister and Civil Rights Activist), Mother Teresa (Catholic Nun and Missionary), Sir Winston Churchill (Politician, Author and PM of the United Kingdom), Eric Williams (Leader and PM of Trinidad and Tobago), George Washington (Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and First President of the United States), and Gandhi (Political and Ideological Leader of India’s Independence Movement).  These leaders all had influence, insight, charisma, and resilience.

I would like to share some key points from The Five Marks of Authentic Leadership, written by Michael Hyatt, a prominent authority on the topics of leadership and productivity, and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In essence:

Authentic leaders have insight. Sometimes we refer to this as vision, but that usually has exclusive reference to the future. While leaders must have vision, they need more. They need wisdom and discernment. They need to be able to look at complex situations, gain clarity, and determine a course of action. In the Bible, “[The] men of Issachar … understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). This is what I mean by insight.

Authentic leaders demonstrate initiative. Leaders go first. They don’t sit on the sidelines. They don’t ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves. They lead by example – that is what makes them authentic. Lt. Col. Hal Moore is a great example of this. Famously depicted by Mel Gibson in the movie, We Were Soldiers, Lt. Moore told his troops, before leaving for Vietnam,

“We are going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I’ll be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together, so help me God.”

Authentic leaders exert influence. It’s no coincidence that influence and influenza (the flu) come from the same root word. Real leaders are contagious. People “catch” what they have. People are drawn to their vision and their values. Authentic leaders are able to gather a following and move people to act. They are human wave pools, creating a ripple effect wherever they go.

Authentic leaders have impact. At the end of the day, leaders make a difference. The world is changed because of their leadership. They are able to create real and lasting change. Unless something has shifted, they aren’t leaders. They are only entertainers. There is a big difference. The measure of leadership cannot be found in the leader; it is found in the impact the leader has on his or her followers.

Authentic leaders exercise integrity. Not every leader is benevolent. Adolf Hitler was a leader, as were Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin and Kim Jung IL. They had insight, initiative, influence, and impact. Yet their lives were not integrated with the highest values. Integrity—or the lack thereof—ultimately determines the quality of a person’s impact. This is the foundation of authentic leadership.

Michael concludes by stating that leaders must be deliberate and intentional if they are to be successful.

KMT builds to authentic leadership through leadership insight, value and community.  Contact us and let us support you on your way to becoming the leader you were destined to be.

If you want your team or executives to benefit from our Authentic Leadership courses, please contact KMT Learning at or 905 829 4378 to schedule an appointment.

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