Monday, 14 December 2015

Authentic Leaders and Followers

There are many leadership styles, and, amongst modern leadership theory - or transformational leadership theory - in the relational leadership school of Level 5, shared, ethical and authentic leadership, authentic leadership is one of the most interesting.

Avolio, Luthans, and Walumbwa defined authentic leadership as “those who are deeply aware of how they think and behave and are perceived by others as being aware of their own and others’ values/moral perspectives, knowledge, and strengths; aware of the context in which they operate; and who are confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient, and of high moral character” (2004, p. 4, as cited in Avolio & Gardner, 2005, p. 321).

Authentic leadership values create openness, transparency and allows for doubt, which in turn allows us to develop open and honest reflection. It allows for the empowerment of others, and the creation of value: of human capital, intellectual capital and of other resources. It allows us to build a positive workplaces through a shared vision, values and goals (Jackson & Parry, 2011).

Authentic leadership does not allow cultural gaps to occur; that is, where there is a difference between the organisational behaviours that the are spoken about and those that actually happen (Daft & Pirola-Merlo, 2009).

Due to their nature, authentic leaders build adaptive organisational culture, where they have high concern for people, and create processes which aid positive change. This is the type of environment where - calculated - risks can be taken, where pilot studies are the norm, and where corporate entrepreneurship can flourish.

Authentic leaders encourage us to challenge, inspire, motivate or ground ourselves, by supplying an external perspective and helping us to internally adapt within organisations.

Authentic leadership allows us to focus on the development of followers. Wren (1995, p. x) defines leadership as “an interactive process in which leaders and followers engage in mutual interaction in a complex environment to achieve mutual goals”. Daft and Pirola-Merlo (2009, p. 4, after Rost, 1991, p. 102) defines leadership as “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purposes”. Burns (1978, p. 18): “people with certain motives and purposes mobilize in competition or conflict with others, institutional, political, psychological, and other resources so as to arouse, engage, and satisfy the motives of the followers”. Ivancevich and Matteson (2002, p. 425, as cited by Chelladurai, 2006, p. 192): "the process of influencing others to facilitate the attainment of organizationally relevant goals".

All those definitions mention followers (or 'others') as a key stakeholder in the process of leadership, and this is particularly true in authentic leadership. Shamir & Eilam (p. x, 2005, as cited in Avolio & Gardner, 2005, p. 322) define authentic followers as those “who follow leaders for authentic reasons and have an authentic relationship with the leader".This is one of the few leadership styles that details the characteristics of the follower.

It is egalitarian. Authentic leaders and followers are an inextricably linked pair.

And they support each other.


  • Avolio, Bruce J. & Gardner, William L. (June 2005). Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 16, Issue 3, June 2005 (pp. 315-338)
  • Burns, James MacGregor (1978). Leadership. USA: Harper & Row
  • Chelladurai, Packianathan (2006). Human Resource Management in Sport and Recreation (2nd Edition). USA: Human Kinetics (pp. 189-210)
  • Daft, Richard L., & Pirola-Merlo, Andrew (2009). The Leadership Experience (Asia-Pacific Edition 1). Australia: Cengage
  • Jackson, B., & Parry K. (2011). A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about studying leadership (Second Edition). UK: Sage
  • Wren, Thomas J. (1995). The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership through the Ages. USA: The FreePress

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