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29th June 2017

Impact – Psychology for Business: The Business Impact of Authentic Leadership

To thine own self be true”

The roots of authenticity can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophy, but over the past couple of decades there has been a growing interest in authenticity, in particular, authentic leadership. Why is this?

Leaders have been facing complex challenges, such as political and environmental changes, uncertain global economy and increasing global competition. This chaotic environment has led to much more risk taking in order to survive in such a highly dynamic and competitive market. The consequence of this has been mismanagement of issues and corporate scandals, resulting in reduced trust and accountability within organisations. In response to this, the positive organisational concept of authentic leadership has been rekindled with the hope of managing this chaotic environment and promoting ethical approaches to leadership.

What does it mean to be ‘authentic’?

When someone mentions the word authentic, what do you think of? Someone who is genuine, true to themselves, values-based? Although there is not one accepted definition of authentic leadership in the research literature, it is suggested that being an authentic leader goes beyond being ‘true to oneself’ and instead is comprised of several positive assumptions. Some of which include being aware of and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses and taking into account the views of others (Gardner, Cogliser, Davis & Dickens, 2011).

What are the benefits of leading authentically?

Leading authentically can bring many benefits to you, your team and your organisation. Instead of striving to be seen as the all-knowing and all-powerful leader, today’s leaders must be prepared to pave the way to becoming more authentic.

Leading authentically influences the way employees think, behave and feel about their place of work. There is currently a growing body of research linking authentic leadership with positive workplace outcomes. For example, authentic leaders create a safe and trusting environment with colleagues, leading to them having more energy to create and innovate (Müceldili, Turan & Erdil, 2013), being more committed to their organisation and ultimately increasing performance at work (Walumbwa, et al., 2008; Walumbwa, et al., 2010). Proactively taking steps to incorporate authentic leadership into your organisational culture can reap tremendous rewards, both for yourself, colleagues and your organisation.

This positive authentic lens on leadership in the workplace identifies those human strengths that will inevitably benefit an organisation by improving the overall effectiveness and drive performance in today’s complex and uncertain work environment. It is said that people are neither completely authentic nor inauthentic, rather best described as existing on a continuum from more to less authentic (Erickson, 1995). Therefore, in relation to leadership it is best to concentrate on how to develop levels of authenticity. Using an evidence-based approach Impact can help you understand what it means to be authentic and how to develop as an authentic leader.

Impact presented the key business impacts of leading authentically and shared original research at the Pro-Manchester #BeeAuthentic Conference. We will be reporting the results of the survey soon, so watch this space.

To learn more, contact us directly [email protected] and follow us on Social Media to keep up to date with our latest news – @workwithimpact


Gardner, W. L., Cogliser, C. C., Davis, K. M., & Dickens, M. P. (2011). Authentic leadership: A review of the literature and research agenda. The Leadership Quarterly, 22, 1120-1145.

Müceldili, B., Turan, H., & Erdil, O. (2013). The influence of authentic leadership on creativity and innovativeness. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 99, 673-681.

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.

Walumbwa, F. O., Wang, P., Wang,H., Schaubroeck, J., & Avolio, B. J. (2010). Psychological processes linking authentic leadership to follower behaviors. The Leadership Quarterly, 21, 901–914.

Erickson, R. J. (1995). The importance of authenticity for self and society. Symbolic Interaction, 18, 121–144.