Authentic Leadership

Maggie Sun
4 min readMay 16


After over 50 years of more than 1000 studies on leadership and great leaders, no exact model of the perfect leadership has emerged and no clear profile of the ideal leader is established. Regardless, I can tell you with confidence that developing yourself into an authentic leader is a sure bet to win the future.

Who are authentic leaders:

Authentic Leaders are those who demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values with consistency, lead with their hearts and heads, build long-term meaningful relationships, and use self-discipline to achieve results.

To Become an authentic Leader, you do not have to be born with specific characters, nor do you have to be at the top or wait for approval; all you need to do is focus on six critical areas.

Six areas of focus for Authentic Leadership

1. Life stories:

To become an authentic leader, you need to know your authentic self at first, which requires courage and honesty to openly examine your life experiences, especially negative ones such as poverty, loss of a job, personal illness, death of a relative or friend, being discriminated against or rejected by peers. Rather than seeing yourself as a victim, you should use these formative experiences to rise above the challenges and discover your passion to lead. In the meantime, you must learn to take criticism without offence, to tolerate personal failures and disappointments, to forgive yourself, stretch yourself, and to reinvent yourself by acquiring new knowledge and developing new skills.

2. Practicing your values and principles:

It’s easy to list your values and live by them when it is all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s a different story when your success, your career or even your life hangs in the balance. To be an authentic leader, you must fully comprehend what’s important, what you are prepared to sacrifice and what compromises you are willing to make so that you can readily translate your leadership principles and values into action in all situations.

3. Balanced motivations:

Authentic leaders have a solid grasp of what drives them to do what they do. They keep a perfect balance in juggling between different types of motivations. They understand that intrinsic motivations such as personal growth, helping others, social causes, and making a difference are congruent with their values and more fulfilling than extrinsic motivations such as recognition, social status, promotions, financial rewards, etc.

4. Building a strong support team:

Leaders cannot succeed on their own. When they feel vulnerable, they need support (affirmation, advice, perspective, and help in course corrections) from their network — their families, mentors, friends, or colleagues — that they build over time as their shared experiences and histories with people create the necessary trust and confidence during time of trial and uncertainty. In the meanwhile, they give as much to their supporters as they get from them so that mutually beneficial relationships can bloom.

5. Living an integrated life:

You cannot be an authentic leader without living a balanced life. To do that, you need to bring together all your life’s constituent elements — work, family, community, and friends — so that you can be the same person in each environment. Think of your life as a house, with a bedroom for your personal life, a study for your professional life, a family room for your family, and a living room to share with your friends. Can you knock down the walls between these rooms and be the same person in each of them?

6. Empowering Others:

Knowing that there is no success without a successor, authentic leaders always develop other leaders at every level and empower people to step up and lead, which in turn helps them build relationships and attract talents.

Authentic leadership is not a fixed trait but a continuous journey of self-discovery and growth. By focusing on these key areas, you can develop yourself into an authentic leader who’s able to create positive and empowering work environments, foster collaboration and engagement, and ultimately, maximize your contribution to your organization’s success.


George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A.N., & Mayer, D. (2007, February). Discovering Your Authentic Leadership. HBR.

George, B. (2004, Aug. 11). Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Related articles and books:

Agile Leadership Explained: We Can All Be Agile Leaders and Change the World Together! (Kobo)

Agile Leadership Explained: We Can All Be Agile Leaders and Change the World Together! (Amazon)

Collet, B. (2019). Agile leadership. (Online course).



Maggie Sun

MBA, certified agile coach and experienced strategy analyst, specializing in business agility, agile leadership, Beyond Budgeting, and general management.