Leadership DNA

Rediscovering Authentic Leadership

Narinder Sharma

Authentic leadership is guided by qualities of the heart, passion and compassion, and the mind. Authentic leaders are dedicated to developing themselves because they know that becoming a leader takes a lifetime of personal growth. They develop a character consistent with their values and principles. They demonstrate self-discipline & self-awareness and work hard to overcome their shortcomings. They build enduring relationships with others by leading with purpose, meaning, and values.

One can not become an authentic leader by imitating and copying someone else. One can learn from others’ experiences, but duplicity is not always successful. People trust leaders when they are genuine and authentic, not a replica of someone else.

How can people become and remain authentic leaders?

During the past five decades alone, over a thousand studies have taken place on leadership-related topics. These studies focused on great leaders, their leadership styles, characteristics, or personality traits. However, none of these studies produced a clear profile of the ideal leader. It proves there isn’t a cookie-cutter leadership style, or else individuals would forever try to imitate it, turning themselves into clones, personae, not leaders.

How can people become and remain authentic leaders?

In an attempt to understand – “Why thousands of leadership studies failed to produce a profile of an ideal leader?”, Harward Business Review’s research team studied hundreds of successful leaders to learn how they developed their leadership abilities. HBR team’s study found it wasn’t universal characteristics, traits, skills, or styles that led to their success. Instead, their leadership emerged from their life stories. It means you do not have to be born with specific characteristics or traits of a leader. You do not have to wait for a tap on the shoulder. You do not have to be at the top of your organisation. Instead, you can discover your potential right now within yourselves. 

Authentic Leadership Development: It’s all about you.

Discovering your authentic leadership requires a commitment to developing yourself. Like professional sportspeople and musicians, you must commit yourself to a lifetime of realising your potential.

“Take responsibility for developing yourself.”

To become an authentic leader, you must observe and learn from your experiences and life to develop deep self-awareness. Then act on that awareness by practising your values and principles. Finally, carefully balance your motivation between your inner value drive and your desire for external rewards/recognition.   

You can achieve this by keeping a solid support team around you to maintain an integrated and grounded life.


Members of Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council almost unanimous agreed on self-awareness as the most important capability for leaders.

Feedback – “know thyself better.”

One of the best ways to understand yourself and increase self-awareness is through gathering 360 feedback about yourself. 

Feedback can be captured in a traditional, nontraditional, written, or verbal manner, and it can be from various sources, superiors, subordinates, peers, and internal or external sources. However, irrespective of feedback source and style, it contributes to your self-awareness. Therefore, authentic leaders must be willing to listen to feedback – especially those they don’t want to hear.

Values and Principles

Authentic leadership derives value from your beliefs and convictions. 

Your values form the foundation of authentic leadership. These values and beliefs guide you when under pressure.

It is relatively easy to list your values and live by them when things are going well. However, when your success, career, or life hangs in the balance, you learn what is most important, what you are willing to sacrifice, and what trade-offs you are ready to make. This pressure test reveals your core foundational values and principles. 

These Leadership principles and values then translate into action & behaviours. Therefore, having a solid base of values and testing them under fire set your leadership trajectory.


discovering_your_authentic_leadership21.pdf (harvard.edu)

360 Degree feedback and leadership development – ScienceDirect