The Path to Authentic Leadership Often Misses 1 Key Ingredient

Some things are best understood through the lens of their opposite. Authentic leadership is one of them.

If you’re not authentic you are:

  • Fake
  • Counterfeit
  • Phony
  • False
  • Unreal
  • Synthetic
  • Sham
  • Untrue
  • Fabricated
  • False

No one aspires to be a phony, but what else do you call someone who wears a mask.

Why you care about authenticity:

#1. Connection requires authenticity.

Relationships are phony when you wear a mask. You can’t connect with others and others can’t connect with you.

#2. Energy gain instead of energy drain.

Being a phony is exhausting. Bringing your best self to work is liberating.

#3. Employee attitude and happiness.

If you work for a phony, work is dissatisfying.

#4. Clarity of vision and mission.

When you forget who you are, you define yourself by your circumstances.

You can’t see where you need to go until you see who you are.

Authentic leadership - you can't see where you need to go until you see who you are. Image of a little boy looking down a foggy railroad track.

The path to authenticity includes:

  1. Self-reflection that leads to unvarnished self-awareness.
  2. Values that are known and honored in daily decisions.
  3. Commitment to contribute to others. Authentic leadership isn’t about serving yourself.


“Authenticity is not a license to be excessively focused on the self. It’s about being aligned with your character and values in order to lead effectively. That takes work.” Brooke Vuckovic

The missing ingredient to authentic leadership:

Ideas about authentic leadership often leave out one key ingredient.

I searched “authentic leadership” on the internet. One key ingredient is often missing, vulnerability.

Authentic leaders have:

  1. Courage to be seen.
  2. A point of view they are willing to share.
  3. Curiosity about people and their viewpoints.
  4. People in their lives who tell them the truth.
  5. Boundaries. Authenticity enables you to say no with kindness.
  6. Confidence they have something to offer.
  7. Bravery to own mistakes.

Authenticity is harder than it seems because it includes courage to be seen.

What is challenging about authentic leadership?

What does the path toward authentic leadership look like to you?

Still curious: How Leaders Become Real – Lessons from Pinocchio