Although it may seem easy to define Authentic Leadership, the connotation is quite complex and has been described in various ways (Chan, 2005). One viewpoint is the intrapersonal perspective which focuses on genuine leaders alone, expressing self-regulation and focusing on their experiences (Northouse, 2016). Second way of viewing authentic leadership is by the interpersonal process. It demonstrates it as a social and interactive connotation which is created by both the leaders and their followers (Eagly, 2005). Thirdly, authentic leadership is often defined as having a developmental standpoint which explains it as something that can be cultivated and encouraged to a leader (Northouse, 2016). All three formulations can be differentiated into practical and theoretical approaches while offering different understandings on its complicated development.
The theoretical approach aims to define an authentic leader. This approach mainly revolves around findings in social science research. It aims to classify the basic sections of authentic leadership and their relation to one another. Categorising characteristics has been a challenge in developing a theory around authentic leadership says Peter G. Northouse, in his book Leadership: Theory and Practice (2016).
On the other hand, stands the practical approach that focuses on the ‘how to’ of things. With the aim of discovering what steps a leader must take in order to become an authentic leader. The practical approach revolves around real-life examples, case studies, interviews, trainings as well as literature that has been formulated by Harvard Business School Professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George (George, Sims, McLean and Mayer, 2016). In his practical explanation, his findings demonstrate an authentic leader as someone who possesses the characteristics listed in the diagram below.
Source: From Authentic leadership: rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value by George, B. (2004).
How do the two approaches benefit a leader?
Well, the theoretical approach claims that leaders develop attributes such as self-awareness, balanced processing, and rational transparency based on lifetime of experience (Northouse, 2016). The practical approach, merely revolving around George’s findings, claim that authentic leadership can be formed if the leader demonstrates the mentioned characteristics.
It can be concluded that with the combination of both theoretical and practical methods a strong authentic leadership can be achieved and taking district side is not necessarily beneficial.
Eagly, A.H. (2005) Achieving relational authenticity in leadership: Does gender matter? The Leadership Quarterly. [Online] 16 (3), 459–474. Available from: doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.03.007.
George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A.N. & Mayer, D. (2016) Discovering Your Authentic Leadership. [Online]. 26 September 2016. Harvard Business Review. Available from: https://hbr.org/2007/02/discovering-your-authentic-leadership [Accessed: 13 June 2017].
Northouse, P.G. (2016) Leadership: theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications.