The hard truth about authentic leadership model

Many leaders simply manage and it is the opposite. Leadership falls into the functions of management and is at the core of being a great manager. Without great leadership a manager is stagnant only concerned for the status-quo. Leadership, being the core of management, is crucial to and organization’s success—-both from a performance and management level. Leadership is critical to business success and has relative value in organizations throughout North American and the rest of the developed countries.

However, leadership, when assessed from a distance, is somewhat elusive. For instance, four scholars by the names of Francis Yammarino, Shelley Dionne, Jae Uk and Fred Dansereau found some mismatches between theoretical concepts of leadership and empirical investigations, and explained that while the theoretical concepts of leadership are extensive, empirical studies could not have sufficiently supported these theoretical concepts. In fact, past studies about leadership lacked a multilevel approach, and only focused on downward control. Not accounting for a middle-level leader who takes a two-way approach to influence both superiors and subordinates—more of liaison.

Another reason was that there is no determined set of variables used to investigate effective leadership, owing to the diversity of leadership theories with different perspectives about effective leadership. A third reason relates to studies about leadership that lack a systematic approach and stem from interdisciplinary approaches. Thus, leadership has remained relatively silent on how to integrate theories, methods, and concepts from diverse disciplinary domains to provide a rich basis for understanding the true leadership theoretical and applicable concepts.

Several authors focus on different aspects of leadership models and argue that existing leadership models could have reasonably developed some ways of appraising an effective leader versus an ineffective leader, and also identified a number of variables potentially affecting the effectiveness of leadership. Unfortunately, these leadership models have been challenged by various researchers and leadership has still left executives with rudimental and anecdotal ways to lead—-leaving a gap between leadership effectiveness, satisfying followers, and meeting customer needs. These leadership models have failed to disclose the nature of filling the leadership gaps between performance and success.   

When looking at leadership from a new perspective, executives should understand the leadership models but place more emphasis on applying what works best for them in their current work environment. Many executives wonder what academic and leadership writers are trying to explain via models. There really is not much difference except that a theoretical framework has been tried and tested while a model may be an application that leaders can learn and teach others. For instance various models are presented in an attempt to portray the concept of leadership. However, there have been several shifts in the thought of leadership, and subsequently newer approaches to leadership emerged leading up to the emergence of authentic leadership model.

Authentic leadership provides prescriptive and anecdotal applications that leaders and supervisors can grasp. It is straightforward and uses a variety of guidelines for both leaders and followers alike. A prominent scholar that is well known in the Academy of Management by the name of Bill George explain authentic leaders as those managers 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.” However, authentic Leadership has not evaded the criticism by scholars that normally are associated with leadership models and theories. For example, two scholars by the names of Jackie Ford and Nancy Harding maintain that the foundations of authentic leadership are somewhat vague, and lack of attention to how an authentic leader can adapt to every situations and present different faces to different followers while remaining authentic.

They also challenge authentic leadership in terms of its theoretical foundations and approach to adapting people to the collective, and argue that this leadership style failed to consider the fact that each person is full of contradictions. In addition, Rita Gardiner, an author and scholar in the area of management at the University of Western Ontari, critiques authentic Leadership for the lack of a theoretical rationale by which the essential role of social and historical factors can be justified, and posits that “authentic leadership is deeply problematic because it fails to take into account how social and historical circumstances affect a person’s ability to be a leader.” For a leader to be completely authentic, telling the truth is not always easy. Therefore, is being an Authentic Leader a good thing? Yes. Does it work in every situation? No. Should a leader know about it and consider being as authentic as possible when determining his or her strengths and weaknesses. Yes.   


Ford, J & Harding, N 2011, The impossibility of the ‘true self’ of authentic leadership, Leadership, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 463–479

Gardiner , RA 2011, A Critique of the Discourse of Authentic Leadership, International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 2, no. 15, pp. 99-104.

George, B. (2003). Authentic leadership: rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Yammarino, F.J., Dionne, S.D., Uk, C.J., & Dansereau, F. (2005). Leadership and levels of analysis: A state-of-the-science review. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(6), 879-919.

Mostafa Sayyadi is a Senior Management Consultant and Former Leadership Team Member of San Diego-based The Change Leader Consulting Inc. He is an| Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, a Book Author and Business and Technology Journalist.   

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