I’ve been reading a bit about the inherent fallacy of authenticity in leadership, much of which stems from the culminations of personal analysis of leaders such as Donald Trump and even Adolf Hitler. Both leaders in their own right, perceptions of whether they were good or bad leaders I will leave for you to interpret. However, one thing appears perhaps subtly obvious: they are authentic and they are leaders, but does that make them an ‘authentic leader’? I would argue not.
When we apply the assertion that authentic + leader = an authentic leader, we forget what an authentic leader really is. So, let’s go back and remember what one of these leaders should look like.
An authentic leader has:
- Strong self-awareness: This means they are deeply aware of their strengths, their weaknesses, and their limitations. But this also extends to being able to understand the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of those around them.
- Relational authenticity: A leader who demonstrates this conveys their own true self in everything relationship they have. This includes with their partners, their families, their followers and the general public to name a few.
- Positive moral identity: Having a positive moral identity comes in two parts. Firstly, an internalised moral perspective or having an understanding of the way we decided our own ethical framework. Secondly, that this positive moral framework is built up with the collective interests at stake.
- Balanced processing: Finally, balanced processing is the ability of a leader to use their own self-awareness and moral identity to analyse and process relevant information to make good decisions.
Is Trump an authentic leader?
An inherent weakness of some leaders are their inability to understand the way in which others see them – and that can sometimes limit their ability to be truly self-aware. In this regard, Trump understands who he is but he does not appear to have an understanding of some of his own weaknesses – his ego and arrogance for starters.
“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” – Donald Trump.“I would’ve beaten Obama in 2012.” – Donald Trump.
Sure, he appears to present his authentic self in his relationships, but his moral identity is questionable. He is repeatedly presenting racist, sexist, and homophobic comments which are clearly against the collective interest.
“You’re disgusting.” – Donald Trump to an opposing lawyer when she asked for a medical break to pump breast milk for her three-month-old daughter.
And surely understanding the implications of such comments would have required some in-depth consideration (i.e. a form of balanced processing).