authentic leadership

An authentic leader’s style refers to a personal way of being. Landy and Conte describe the authentic leader as “genuine” and as a good “listener” (p. 567). This is congruent with most references (styles, models, and theories) to authentic leaders as being self-aware and other-aware. Bernard Bass (2008) reports, “Herb Kelleher, the highly rated CEO of Southwest Airlines, declared that he didn’t have a leadership style except being himself” (p. 224). If Kelleher has a leadership style, it may be “authentic.”

More than a simple description of a leader’s manner, a theory requires some derivative context. Wolubwa et al. (2008) writes, “Although authentic leadership theory is in its early stages of conceptual development, the construct of authenticity has deep roots in philosophy . . .

[and] a theory of authentic leadership has been emerging over the last several years from the intersection of the leadership, ethics, and positive organizational behavior and scholarship literatures” (p. 92). These researchers have distilled common aspects of previous research, and theorize that the following statement describes the nature and consequences of authentic leadership: “Specifically, we define authentic leadership as a pattern of leader behavior that draws upon and promotes both positive psychological capacities and a positive ethical climate, to foster greater self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balanced processing of information, and relational transparency on the part of leaders working with followers, fostering positive self-development” (p. 95).

Though a model incorporates the suppositions of the theory, the focus is more on the way in which the components interact. Bass (2008) presents a visual model of the effects of leader authenticity showing that it directly affects staff authenticity which in turn influences organizational health and climate (p. 224).


Bass, B. M. (2008). The Bass handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (4th ed.). New York: Free Press.

Landy, F. J., & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic leadership: Development and validation of a theory-based measure. Journal of Management, 34, 89–126.