Authentic leadership as a theoretical model suffers from a similar problem to other leadership constructs in that the term is used in subtly different ways by different authors (Bennis, 2003; Luthans, 2003; Terry, 1993). In general, however, all research into authentic models has identified areas of commonality; the focus on authentic leaders/followers possessing self-knowledge, an awareness of self-values whilst also being cognizant of others’ values and morals; and being individuals who are “confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient, positive and high in moral courage” (Avolio, 2004, p. 805).
Models of authentic leadership seek to achieve similar outcomes to transformative leadership models, in motivating others (followers) to become empowered, inspired, and to perform at higher levels of productivity. Authentic leadership is also built upon the foundations of positive psychology (Avolio, 2005); authentic leaders are identified as individuals that are as guided by the qualities of the heart, passion and compassion as they are by qualities of the mind (George, 2003). Like transformative leadership models, authentic leaders are not differentiated upon behavioural styles as such. Rather, authentic leaders behave in harmony with their personal values and convictions, to build credibility and win the respect and trust of followers by encouraging diverse viewpoints and building networks of collaborative relationships with followers, and thereby lead in a manner that followers recognize as authentic (Avolio, 2004). Luthans and Avolio (2003) also noted that authentic leaders identify and encourage individual differences and have the ability and motivation to identify people’s talents, assist them in building those talents into strengths, as well as aligning those interests and talents with organisational goals.
In education and organizations alike it is anticipated that this process will cascade to followers, encouraging them to act in a similar manner, indicating to peers, leaders and the broader community their own authenticity – and over time this may become the basis for an renewal in organisational culture.