The concept of Authentic Leadership seems to be an idea of our time. Transactional leadership was once considered sufficient for effective organisational management (Burns 1976), but then after the successes of the 1980’s this gave way to the idea of Transformational leadership (Bass 1997) where leaders supposedly motivated through what was termed ‘idealised influence’. However, this idea of the charismatic leader has been somewhat undermined by a decade of global mis-leadership which has led us, almost inevitably, to the new paradigm of Authentic Leadership.
With the indisputably tough economic times we are facing, the need for strong leadership in business is critical to survival – yet we are also faced with a groundswell of demands for high ethics and responsibility from those leaders, as evidenced by the recent occupations and demonstrations in the city of London and beyond. Intuitively and anecdotally this idea of Authentic Leadership seems to makes sense, but in this article we also want to consider how we make the practice of Authentic Leadership development robust. To this end we want to highlight two areas that we feel need to be addressed if Authentic Leadership development is to be taken seriously by practitioners as well as researchers, and these two areas are theory based practice and measurement.
The authors of this article recently ran an Authentic Leadership training workshop and decided to capture some data to see just what impact the training course was having. As experimental research design goes, some compromises were necessary. For example, it was a relatively small sample of just ten delegates and it was a short intervention of just a day. That said, although this wasn’t a longitudinal study, the follow-up measures were taken a week after the course, which is arguably a considerable improvement on the immediate post-course evaluation forms typically used as a measure of training effectiveness. This brings us on to our first issue of concern for the developing field of Authentic Leadership development, that of measurement.
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