What does it mean to be an authentic leader?


Authentic leadership is NOT a system of rules or patterns of behavior that compels people to conform.  It is NOT wearing a mask of perfection or developing a commanding presence. It is NOT revealed by socio-economic status, social network followers, or how we are ranked in public-opinion polls.

On the contrary, authentic leadership is determined by living a life congruent with who we genuinely are; it is the true values we hold and the real purposes for which we sacrifice. Being an authentic leader is upholding truth expressed through a life well-lived both in public and in private. It is not what you appear to be, but who you really are!

With authentic leadership comes a place of internal freedom. We experience emotional well-being when we refuse to be coerced to conform to external pressure, political correctness, or to compromise for corrupt advantage. It is our ability to enjoy the effortlessness of being true to who we are and doing what is right and just. We do not have to hide our passion or waste emotional energies attempting to be what we are not. Rather, we can live instinctively enjoying life and those we lead.

We all have a daily choice. We can enjoy the freedom of authenticity or we can choose to hide behind a mask of people-pleasing, fear-based manipulation. We can choose to flirt with abuse of authority through forked-tongue communication or instead to model attributes that breed internal self-respect.


“A person must know their true value, identity, and purpose. If they do not, they will likely hold their heart in a guarded stance and live without authenticity in order to protect the appearance they wish to uphold.”


How do we mature and enjoy the freedom of authentic leadership?


  1. Proper Self-Assessment: It is never wise to see yourself better than you are. However, it is important to celebrate your value. Ask yourself some questions. What skills do you have? What value do you bring to the table? What passion do you possess? It is also important to be up-front with the things that could sabotage your success—whether it be a mindset, attitude, habit, or character trait. The key is to maximize your strengths and deal aggressively with any destructive character flaw.


“The more aware I am of my internal world, the more empowered I can be to manage myself and to make healthy decisions for my future. On the contrary, internal blind spots can act as areas of sabotage that would keep me from sound thinking or doing.”


  1. Learn up, around, and down: Every relationship is a gift and an opportunity to mature. Learn up from mentors or those who can lead you where you’ve never gone before.   Learn around from peer relationships to gain understanding from what they do well as well as recognizing the pitfalls to avoid by learning from their mistakes. Learn down acknowledging that those you lead carry a perspective that will instruct you on how to relate, connect, and lead more effectively.


“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Bill Nye


  1. High moral standards: No matter how difficult it is you must choose to submit your decisions to a high moral code and not give in to external pressure. It is vital to not be controlled by people or circumstances that tempt you to compromise.


“Without the courage of our convictions, we compromise, and with compromise our sense of purpose deteriorates.”


  1. Transparency: Be honest with your life experiences, your life’s journey, your failures and your victories. Though you may hold a higher position, acknowledge your humanity and personal history.


Transparency, honesty, kindness, good stewardship, even humor, work in businesses at all times.John Gerzema


In a world where mistrust is epidemic and authentic leadership hard to find, we can choose statesmanship over political gain, servant leadership over self-serving leadership, and authenticity over false-faced exploitation. This is the internal freedom an authentic leader will experience as he or she sets a standard for him or herself that will bring personal satisfaction as well as positive influence to those they lead.


Cultures can be positively influenced by the few, the courageous, the authentic!


From one leader to another,

Dr. Melodye Hilton

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