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.


Guest Post: 10 Signs You Were “Born to Train”

This post is provided by guest blogger, Wendy Frushon Tsaninos, alumna University of St. Francis, MS Training and Development program

While many employees may sigh loudly, roll their eyes, or make a scrunchy face at the mere mention of training, there are those of us who break into a wide smile, raise our hands to volunteer, and say, “Yay!”   We just have a passion for this process. Here are some lighthearted ways in which natural-born trainers reveal themselves.

  • You’re usually the one to read the instructions to the new board game and explain to others how to play. Only after the first full round do you start to relax, once everyone has demonstrated competency. You might even throw out a “How are you liking this so far?” to get a sense of what new training opportunities, er, board games would be fun for this group.
  • Your family members recall that once you learned how to read, you wanted to teach everyone how to do it too. Siblings, cousins, even the family dog. The dog was ok with it until you learned how to ride a bike.
  • When you are in line at the store and a cashier has to stop to figure out how to change the paper roll, ring in a special discount, or some other task, you have to hold yourself back from helping or grabbing the manual. After self-restraint has been achieved, you wonder about the training program that store has in place.
  • Whenever your parents asked you “what you learned in school today,” you answered in Fitzpatrick levels. You shared your opinion of the topic first. Next, you explained what you learned and casually remarked about avoiding or taking more of the subject’s classes “once I get to high school.” You made sure to tell them how you will “never use geometry” or how you are “going to try inventing a better ___” based on the experiment in science class. A few of you might have even thrown in ROI – “and then I will become a millionaire with my new design!”
  • You were way more savvy than the other kids since you knew how to identify your stakeholders at an early age. They had no clue about leveraging grandparent support for the family vacation or getting the school coach to advocate starting a new sports team. You then approached your parents and the principal with confidence…ready to go to Disney and be captain of the new badminton team.
  • You believe in those stock photos of business people in which they appear excited about the training they’re receiving. You think that’s what actually happens in your training classes. You allow no rain on your training parade.
  • When people like the dish you bring to a potluck, you don’t give them the recipe – you invite them over so you can show them how to make it.
  • After working with “the new guy” for a day, you ask for his evaluation of your training and what you could’ve done better. You are annoyed by any one-word answers and vow to create more open-ended questions for the next person you train.
  • You taught practical subjects to pretend participants in your imaginary classroom as a kid, so you could determine your success with post-training outcomes. You even held a graduation ceremony. Over in the other imaginary classroom, your sister was teaching her fake students about unicorn care. You’re a trainer and she’s a teacher now.
  • You have children named Addie and Sam.

How Disney Makes Training Enchanting

When you visit a Disney Park, there is energy and magic that inspires you to smile, relax, imagine and dream. It is no wonder that Disney has bottled this magic into their one-of-a-kind Disney University and Disney Institute.

Disney University is an internal program that provides training using a curriculum centered on storytelling and tradition and communicates the “three magic imperatives: 1. Keep the park clean. 2. Create happiness. 3. Do your job” (Allerton, 1997).

Disney Institute offers customized professional development to businesses. The external programs extend the Disney magic into outside organizations and include training in personnel management, leadership development, and customer service management (Disney Institute, 2014).

Allerton (1997) describes what is coined as the “Disney Difference” at both the Disney Institute and Disney University. This “Difference” is summarized by a few key points: create fun in training; create a consistent organizational theme; empower staff; communicate priorities and their order of importance to staff; celebrate people who have moved positions within the organization; and, finally, guests (customers) perceptions are reality (Allerton, 1997).

The “Difference” promotes fun, infuses fun and practices fun in training. The “Difference” provides unexpected surprises in training. The “Difference” creates positivity in training, a concept both young and old can relate to and embrace.

Innovative, positive, fun training techniques will help a diverse group of learners to rally together. Disney demonstrates the success of this model. Hopefully, you can add the “Difference” to your next training program.

Allerton, H. (May 1997). Professional development the Disney way. Training & Development, 51 (5), 50-57.
Disney Institute. (2014). Our story. Retrieved from:

Can leadership be sustainable?

“Sustainability” is one of those modern day words that is often overused and abused. Every business proposal, grant opportunity, reorganization plan contains the word sustainable. After all, why would you make a change or receive funding if you cannot prove sustainability?  Despite the word’s bad reputation, we propose viewing sustainability through the lens of leadership…

More: Visit our guest post on Pat Sullivan’s Blog

Originally posted on July 7, 2014 by Bonnie J. Covelli and Jeanne Washburn on Pat Sullivan’s Leadership blog.