Friday, June 4, 2010

(Re)defining Authentic Leadership

One of my current passions is Authentic Leadership. Really, I should say that my passion involves REDEFINING what it means to lead authentically. One powerful outcome of creative thinking that is emerging for me, and which is related to this topic, lies the fact that getting in touch with our creative potential, becoming empowered to solve problems, and having the skills to empower others in this way, creates more authentic leaders since it requires an increase in our level of self-awareness. Current definitions of authentic leadership "stop short", and simply do not require a level of self-knowledge that allows truly authentic leadership to emerge. This inauthenticity translates directly to practice since it seeps out via our relationships, including our leadership relationships, making them shallower and even potentially toxic. As Palmer* (1998) stated "When I do not know myself, I cannot know who my students are" (p. 2). Substitute "leaders" for "students" and you see where I am going; it is this sense of mutual knowing to which new ideas about authentic leadership are tied.

The abstract of my recent paper, submitted to the Leadership Quarterly, is below, and I would be happy to share the document with anyone interested:


Authentic Leadership Redefined: How Reflection, Mentoring and Leadership Development Impact Authenticity and Make a Difference in a Diverse and Connected World ~ Dr. Jeffrey Zacko-Smith

ABSTRACT: Drawing on previous research about Authentic Leadership from a variety of sources, a case is made for expanding the definition of what it means to lead authentically, creating a paradigm that is more compatible with the highly diverse and connected world we now lead within. Matching our views of Authentic Leadership to more current understandings of authenticity affects practice by increasing a leader’s level of self-knowledge, which directly plays out in leadership relationships. Increasing authenticity can be accomplished through deep personal reflection, mentorship and by updating leadership development programs, all of which are shown as supportive of authenticity and explicitly discussed.

* Palmer, P. J. (1998). The Courage To Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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