Are You An Authentic Leader?

This post is co-written by Bonnie J. Covelli and Iyana Mason.

Are You An Authentic Leader?

Businessman and author Bill George popularized the theory, authentic leadership, by reflecting on his success in the business world spanning 30 years with his publications, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value and True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, published in 2003 and 2007 respectively. According to George (2003), the five dimensions of authentic leadership include passion, values, relationships, self-discipline, and heart. Authentic leaders embody the following characteristics: 1) understanding their purpose, 2) practicing solid values, 3) leading with heart, 4) establishing connected relationships, and 5) demonstrating self-discipline (George, 2010). Rather than completing these characteristics in a sequential process, authentic leaders develop these qualities over the course of their lifetime because authentic leaders are not born that way (George, 2010).

George (2010) believed that authentic leaders lead with their hearts and learn from their own and other people’s experiences but strive to be authentic with their values and convictions. A central tenet of George’s authentic leadership model is the importance of the leader’s life story in his or her development. A study of more than 125 leaders of various ages, racial/ethnic, religious, etc. backgrounds to learn how people develop their leadership abilities conducted by George, Sims, McLean and Mayer (2007) found that there were no universal traits, styles, or skills of successful, authentic leaders. Rather, in this study, the authors found that for respondents, being authentic made them more effective as leaders. Furthermore, George asserts that the authenticity of the leader, rather than his or her style, is most important (George, 2010).

As you reflect on your own leadership characteristics, can you point to a spirit of authenticity?


George, B. (2003). Authentic leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. [Kindle paperwhite version]. Retrieved from

George, B. (2010). Authentic Leadership. In J. T. McMahon (Ed.), Leadership Classics (pp. 574-583). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A., & Mayer, D. (2007). Discovering your authentic leadership. Harvard Business Review, 129-138.

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