3 Important Components to Authentic Leadership

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No word has created more buzz in leadership circles in recent years than the word “authenticity.”

Everyone talks about being an authentic leader. Everyone wants to be an authentic leader.

The problem is, it can be hard to nail down a workable definition for what it means to truly be authentic.

But a recent, somewhat obscure event in the world of professional sports can serve as a pretty good starting point.

In an Italian league soccer match last month between Lazio and Napoli it appeared that Lazio forward Miroslav Klose had scored the game’s opening goal off a corner kick. Referee Luca Banti signaled “goal,” and the scoreboard showed “1-0” for Lazio.

But then the unthinkable happened.

Klose approached the referee and told him something no one else would have known.

The ball had deflected off of his hand. Klose told the referee the goal should not count. In essence he raised his hand and said, “My bad.”

The official removed the goal from the scoreboard, and play resumed.

When I read this story one of the first thoughts that went through my mind was, “If Miroslav Klose were to run for office, I’d vote for him today!”

Such is the power of authenticity.

Specifically, this episode demonstrates 3 important components to authentic leadership:

1.   Authentic leaders take personal responsibility
Klose could have easily feigned ignorance of the hand-ball. Instead he owned up immediately.

2.   Authentic leaders place integrity above image
What prompted Klose to disclose his error was his personal value system that placed truth above all else, including the need to appear infallible.

3.   Authentic leaders disclose information that is relevant
Klose admitted he had used a hand-ball.

He didn’t admit to getting a speeding ticket on the way to the game, to having overslept his alarm, or to having too much trans-fat in his diet.

My point is that to be a truly authentic leader doesn’t mean to indiscriminately disclose every detail of your life. It means having the wisdom know what your followers need to know in order to earn and keep their trust.

At the end of the day, authenticity is not a technique to be mastered, it’s a quality of character to be developed.

And it might just start with the courage to raise your hand and say, “My bad.”

What characteristics would you add to this list?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. Hey Scott, great article – very helpful. On Sunday, I misspelled a word that was central to my message – it appeared about 15 times on the slide-deck for the first 10 minutes of my message. As you know, one of my values, and subsequently that of Imagining Church, is excellence. I constantly tell our ministry leaders that we have an obligation to remove the barriers (especially the unnecessary ones) that keep people from openness to God. I felt badly for those who had risked bringing perhaps cynical, skeptical, unbelieving friends or neighbours or family members to our Thanksgiving service only to discover that the pastor’s message contained a glaring spelling error while he preached on “Christianity: Crutch or Cure?” Sheesh.
    So, I sent out an email to the whole church and apologized. If anyone had paid the price for my mistake, I wanted them to know I was truly sorry. The responses were great. Lots of grace, of course. But most of all, the recurring theme was how good it was to know that I am human, imperfect, frail, and a little insecure. That’s what people really responded to. The reward for authenticity is applause in spite of failure. In fact, interestingly, it is the celebration of ownership for failure — just as your article suggests. Thanks bro. Colin

  2. That’s a powerful example Colin.

    The other “win” that your authenticity provided was to engender trust among your congregation. When they know you to be someone who will own up to mistakes it creates ever increasing trust.

    Thanks for weighing in!

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