Authentic: "authoritative," from O.Fr. autentique (13c.), from M.L. authenticus, from Gk. authentikos "original, genuine, principal," from authentes "one acting on one's own authority," from autos "self" + hentes "doer, being." Sense of "entitled to acceptance as factual" is first recorded 1369. Authentic implies that the contents of the thing in question correspond to the facts and are not fictitious; genuine implies that the reputed author is the real one. Authentication is recorded from 1788. Authenticity dates to 1657 (in form authentity). (Thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary for this)
On this basis - authentic leadership means being the author of one's own life and being true to oneself.
Many years ago I read a book by Warren Bennis "On Becoming a Leader" and one of his key themes was authenticity. To lift a quote (and thanks to the Amazon site for making this easy!): First and foremost, find out what it is you're about, and be that. Be what you are and don't lose it...It's very hard to be who we are because it doesn't seem to be what anyone wants.
I sometimes wonder in this age of competency models and evidential assessment whether sometimes people end up believing that leadership is some kind of puzzle to solve - a bit like one of those spot the difference competitions. If I can just tick enough of the boxes on the leadership framework, I too can become a senior manager, a director, a chief...
Warren Bennis and I (& no doubt many other people) say something different: first and foremost, being leader is about being yourself and being true to yourself. It is about knowing who you are and relaxing into being you.
How are you today?
Who are you today?