The origins and foundations of authenticity are rooted in ancient Greek history where philosophers are known for moral injunctions such as ‘know thyself’ and ‘to thine own self be true’. A scholar by the name of Snyder Harter defines the term ‘authenticity’ as “owning one’s personal experiences, be they thoughts, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, or beliefs, processes captured by the injunction to know oneself and further implies that one acts in accord with the true self, expressing oneself in ways that are consistent with inner thoughts and feelings”. Julian Treasure, renowned voice and tone specialist calls being authentic as “standing in your own truth.”
The prominent scholar on authentic leadership is Bill George who sheds light on authentic leaders as those chief executive officers who “recognize their shortcomings, and work hard to overcome them. They lead with purpose, meaning and values. They build enduring relationships with people. Others follow them because they know where they stand. They are consistent and self-disciplined. When their principles are tested, they refuse to compromise.” Authentic leaders truly perceive their own values and beliefs, and are highly recognized by other people as being aware of their own and followers’ values, strengths and weaknesses. As a result, these leaders are most knowledgeable about themselves and the context in which they lead. Furthermore, Michael Kernis and Brian Goldman reviewed the literature of authenticity, and found that authenticity manifested itself in “authentic functioning of people’s
- Openness to objectively recognizing their ontological realities (e.g., evaluating their desirable and undesirable self-aspects),
- Actions, and;
- Orientation towards interpersonal relationships”.
The key take-away for executives is that authentic leadership has increasingly become one of the most dominant paradigms today and will be used by many companies around the globe in the next five years. Let us look at authentic leaders and determine their competencies aimed at answering the question of how executives can become better at what they do by using the seven practices of authentic leadership. Bruce Avolio and William Gardner have determined seven practices for authentic leadership:
- Positive psychological capital
- Positive moral perspective
- Leadership process/behavior management
- Follower development, and
- Organizational context.
It is important for executives to develop a positive work climate in which employees more effectively contribute to a company’s performance and competitive advantage. Executives must also have the desirable expertise about the authentic decision-making process, which identifies moral dilemmas, and then evaluates and selects the best available alternative to be implemented. Furthermore, executives need to understand that authentic leaders continually understand their own beliefs, strengths, desires, values, and aspirations. These leaders can distinguish the processes and mechanisms whereby an authentic leader influences his/her followers. Authentic leaders can effectively influence their followers through taking various processes such as positive social exchange. Executives should at least be aware of self-awareness and self-regulation by which authentic leaders effectively align their core values and individual interests with institutional interests and their practices. In fact, a strong alignment can be achieved in values and goals by using a transparent process between leaders and followers. Executives are already aware that an authentic leader takes a coaching role for transforming and developing people. Finally, it is important for executives to develop effective workplaces that promote the depth and range of knowledge access and sharing and provide equal opportunity for all employees at various levels of the company in order to actively respond to the constant changes occurring in external environment. Thus, in the absence of effective authentic leadership, companies cannot implement a successful change in order to adapt to today’s uncertain business environment—-they simply resort to managing the status quo. The key is to see these practices, consider implementing them for yourself and your followers and anticipate a large change in the rate of responses to environmental changes.
In conclusion, this article raises vital questions as to how executives can effectively lead companies with authenticity in today’s hypercompetitive business environment. For the executive’s corner, this article highlights the importance of authentic leadership in implementing changes at the organizational level. For the change practitioner’s corner, this article underscores the ways in which to call on your sponsors’ authenticity. For the scholar’s corner, this article can portray a more detailed picture of the authentic leadership within organizations that have been mentioned but not placed in a set of practices based on acting and doing in the past. Furthermore, I suggest that scholars take these ideas and continue to conduct research using executives as the focal point so that academic scholarship can meet the needs of managerial implications at the higher echelons of organizations worldwide.