Speaking Authentic Leadership

Within the past year or so, the topic of authentic leadership keeps surfacing around the Hogan office, with our clients, and at a few conferences. The repeated references to and different explanations of this buzzword in the leadership development world caused me to pause for a minute. What exactly is authentic leadership, and how can you achieve it? Or, better yet, what can stand your way?

To answer these questions, I started with the authentic leadership guru, Bill George. Mr. George has penned two books on the topic: Authentic Leadership and its successor True North. In his blog post “Authentic Leadership Revisited” he defines authentic leadership as “being genuine, real, and true to who you are.” Another blog post  states that, “to become authentic, each of us has to develop our own leadership style, consistent with our personality and character.”

I think the concept of achieving authentic leadership boils down to strategic self-awareness. Knowing your strengths and challenges, being willing to point out the chinks in your armor, and demonstrating a certain element of humility can all lead to becoming a more authentic leader. Of course, this is more easily said than done. However, Hogan’s personality assessments, development-focused reports, and feedback process can certainly help start the strategic self-awareness conversation.

Additionally, the bigger question here remains. Are there certain personality characteristics that can stand in your way of being seen as authentic? The moving against cluster (Bold, Colorful, Mischievous, and Imaginative) on the Hogan Development Survey can affect your perceived ability to be authentic. It’s important to keep in mind that HDS behaviors often arise under stress, pressure, boredom, or complacency. These are not every day behaviors, but can still impact your perceived authenticity or leadership brand. For example, high scores on this cluster suggest that leaders with these derailing behaviors may not express humility (Colorful) and be unwilling to admit mistakes (Bold). The graph below highlights the impact these derailers can have on authentic leadership.


So, how do you derail? Given these implications for authentic leadership, it’s worth looking into.