The journey to your authentic leadership

by  Tal Shnall  |  Leadership Development

Compass Pointing the Way to Leadership in Business

“We all have the capacity to inspire and empower others. But we must first be willing to devote ourselves to our personal growth and development as leaders.” Bill George

Over the past several years, people have developed a deep distrust of leaders. From politicians to business executives to community leaders, people are finding it difficult to be inspired and follow someone they believe in. Many people are yearning for more transparency and authenticity.

  • Authentic leadership begins with the knowledge of oneself and being true to oneself.
  • It requires authentic valuation of your strengths and areas of growth.
  • Authentic leadership requires personal integrity and elevated self-awareness.
  • Authentic leadership development involves ongoing processes whereby leaders and followers gain self-awareness and establish open, transparent, trusting and genuine relationships.
  • Authentic leaders do not phony their leadership. They do not pretend to be leaders just because they are in a leadership position.

Knowing our true selves requires the audacity and honesty to open up and examine our experiences. Leaders who become authentic are more humane and willing to be vulnerable.

Relational Authenticity

Authentic leaders value and strive for openness and honesty in all relationships. They bring candor to every conversation.  They develop relational authenticity that involves an active process of openness and mutual trust. In authentic relationships, one must be genuine and truthful with other people. Relational authenticity also leads to positive and meaningful relationships with others.


Authentic leaders are more likely to experience unconditional trust as they interact with followers with openness and truthfulness while earning their confidence by shared values and consistent engagement. It requires the leader to be willing to hold oneself open to inspection in order to achieve accurate feedback required to learning.


Authentic leaders are more likely to have positive relationships with their followers. They understand it’s critical to build authentic relationship with people that will lead to greater value congruence and follower exchange that is consistent with authentic leadership values.

Authentic leaders develop better self-awareness which will reflect a mindfulness of trust in our own personal characteristics, value, motives, feelings and thoughts.

Internal Compass

Authentic leaders have a strong internal compass that reflects on who they are, what do they believe, and what is the right thing to do. They believe they can restore and build optimism by the guidance of their moral convictions. They develop themselves and others by restoring confidence and hope for the future.  They encourage transparent relationships and decision making that builds trust and commitment among followers.

They share life stories

Life stories provide authentic leaders with a perspective that can be expressed through their leadership influence. Authentic leaders can relate their life stories as valuable life experiences to share and relate as “lessons learned.” A leader life story conveys the leader qualities. The journey to authentic leadership begins with how you understand your leadership life story. What values did you learn and want to share from your leadership experiences? What stories can you tell others about your strengths and weaknesses?

“To become authentic, each one of us has to develop our own leadership style, consistent with our personality and character.” Bill George



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What People Are Saying

Steve Broe  |  03 Jul 2013  |  Reply

Tal, I think you provided a great description of the authentic leader. I especially think your points about internal compass – a knowing about the right way to go, and self-awareness – understanding one’s emotional experience and how that can impact others, are hallmarks of the authentic leader experience.

We all know leaders that are developing. They may be today’s managers, working on authenticity, and not yet having traveled through a crucible experience that marks the authentic leader as a person of constant integrity. In contrast to authentic leaders, servant leaders, and character-based leaders, the world has a plentiful supply of leaders in progress. We could call them “imperfect leaders” and yet we know that all of us are less than perfect.

How do we help the emerging leaders to become authentic? I believe these people need supportive guidance, challenging experience that helps to establish new levels of meaning, and sufficient pause and reflection to incorporate what has been learned out of painful growth into their daily philosophy of work.

Tal Shnall  |  03 Jul 2013  |  Reply

I think you are discussing very important points into authentic leadership which we all need to reflect upon. I like to think of it as our inner journey to self discovery and development. We have to become better as a person and I think as a result, we will become more authentic, real and trustworthy with the people we lead. I am a big proponent that we can not lead others without leading ourselves first.

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