Authentic leadership: Starts by Being You

The expression of authentic leader is often used. Authentic leadership is fundamentally about being the person that you really are rather than the person that you believe you should be because of the title or role you have. It is also about understanding and leading in line with your core values. Leaders who are authentic have certain characteristics I would hereby like to represent you my example of an authentic leader:

In the year 2003 I moved to The Dominican Republic for the reason, amongst other things, I was offered a job as sales and marketing manager for a company in the Petroleum industry.

The company was based in the countries capital Santo Domingo and wanted to create another branch in the North of the island.

As electricity is very unstable in these regions many hotels are using aggregates that run diesel and oil to keep the power up. The companies main business therefore was the hotel and resort industry by providing them with these products on a regular basis.

The reason for the creation of another branch in the North of the island was mainly because of transportation time and costs. To be ahead of the game delivery time and costs could be lowered to maintain a satisfied customer.

This is were I stepped in, it was my job to start up a network of new customers in the north of the Island but I did not have to do this on my own as the owner of the company would move also to the North to accompany me and guide and help me on my way.

This is when I experienced the only true authentic and genuine form of leadership in my live. This man was a born leader. Let me explain to you why:

When I arrived on the island I was taken on a tour to see the stations the company had built over the years, I was properly introduced to all mechanics and all the existing customers.

This leaders power of influencing others to believe in his vision was enormous by the end of the first week I was a full believer of the whole business concept and its strategy to become the largest Diesel and oil reseller on the Island. He was creating for us this mental picture that seamed already to be true. I have never experienced anyone that could communicate such great vision.

After two weeks of working for him and with him my overall picture of the company became clear, it was by far not as large as it was pictured but nobody else knew this, employees, customers, oil/ diesel producers all believed in this image that was created of this being a large competent company. And competent we were. It was this believe and trust that gave us large amounts of new customers and so we saw the companies profits going up.

This leader of the company was having a real Interplay among the power bases. (Vecchio, R.P. pp.127) “A manager can possess each of the five types of power to varying degrees, and his or her use of one power base can effect the strength of the other.” Therefore he used informal and formal power side by side and knew intuitive what power to use when.

In his company he had real Legitimate power, as we all looked up it him and saw him as the chosen president of the company. Part is this based upon the social system existing in the Dominican Republic but even I with my Dutch background accepted him as such.

Next to this he knew what he was doing he was an expert in his field and was never wrong when it came to making choices. He came with the most wonderful solutions that the mechanics did not think of and everyone in the company, but also his customers and suppliers believed in his talent to create business and provide service. Therefore he had Expert power. He had the technological knowledge and the task relevant skills to lead his personnel in the whole company structure.

Being in a country with so much poverty he had to use his Coercive power make sure that nobody would steel from him. Only if necessary he produced fear among his employees that needed it to stay on track after steeling or not appearing on the job. He did so with threads that they would loose there job and they knew he would enforce it.
He also had Referent power, as he was a very attractive personality, he was sociable and had his own interpersonal style. He was creating a company with his vision and inspired everyone on his way to help him and most of them did. He appeared rich and successful, only I knew he was holding up appearances. He was the kind of person that everyone would like to compare him or her self with.

Next to all this he was very strict a hard worker that went all the way to get what he wanted for his company and anyone that would aid along the way would receive a particular reward, may it be dinner, a raise, a work of art, he would even help providing work for other companies that aided his company.

His ability to Reward power and determine how deserves it and who not makes him a strong leader. On the other hand he was very direct and clear in explaining his reasons for these rewards to the people that were having the benefit but also to others in order to keep motivation in both parties equal and understandable thus setting an example for truthfulness and unbiased treatment.

His decision making style was based upon the Vroom-Yetton model (Vecchio, pp.166) of using already available information; A1, autocratic decision without subordinates input, this was due to him being the most knowledgeable in the company and the fastness that decisions needed to be taken with. After one year of working there I gained his trust and was able to share my obtained knowledge with him he then started asking me for additional information to solve problems (Autocratic 2) this was also due to the rapid growth the company went through. A was later assigned as the vice president of the company.

His overall leading style was high task and high relationship based, he explained to me that there was no other way to achieve the company goal then to put a lot of importance into your employees, customers and suppliers so you can have a high result on your tasks and achieve the ultimate goal of succeeding.

Other characteristics that make me see him as authentic leader:

Very good communication skills, passionate and open style.
Never feeling to good to help long rank personnel.
Giving complements and helping others where needed. (Ingratiation)
Gives clear job assignments that were understood fully.
Being able to change the behavior of everyone.
Reciprocity in all affairs of life: Every exchange should benefit all sides
He used the three primary influence processes of Compliance, identification and internalization (Vecchio, pp 140)
He had a large network with “so called” fiends that existed of competitors and large suppliers. He always said: “keep your friends close but your enemy closer”
He was very much aware of his outward appearance and portraying honesty. (Impression management)
Never lost his cool.
Definiteness of purpose and thoroughness in deciding on a solution and he is doing and learning everything that is necessary to be done
He dared to take risks and say no to great deals, to later receive even larger deal because he had said no at first.
He would not take no for an answer and went to great lengths to achieve his goals. (Shotgun)
He was not a democratic leader but was open-minded to hear others opinions and would use them if proper.
Very path goal oriented, he can be a directive leader, a participative leader, a achievement oriented leader and a supportive leader.
Asks for and gives a 100%
Leads and is part of the team
Extremely responsible.
A role model for his employees.
Open to evaluate his own behavior.
Very focused
Very much respected by all
Self-confidence, without overconfidence
Emphasizing skills.
Listening to complaints of his personnel and solving them.
The Dominican Republic is a country with not many resources, this leader did not have many on hand but managed to grow in one year from one into two branches with hardly any means, driven on believes, passion and the power to change the behavior of others to help him achieve this. This for me with the accomplishment of high profit and the satisfaction and good treatment of his employees means great authentic leadership to me.

Countries such as the Dominican Republic call for strong leadership or employees will simply not come to work as a lack of respect, the own initiative of those workers is low (cultural) and thus strict directions need to be given. This leader would also thrive in any other country based upon his flexibility and ways of intercepting the need for what leadership characteristics are demanded.


George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A.N. and Mayer, D. (February 2007) Harvard Business Review: “ Discovering your authentic leadership” (accessed April 24th, 2009)

Fry, L.W. (Jody) and Whittington, J.L. Spiritual leadership as a paradigm for organization transformation and development. (accessed April 24th, 2009)

George, B. and Sims P. (2007) True North: Discover your authentic leadership. (accessed April 24th, 2009)