Authentic Leadership Thoughts

Development as an Authentic Leader


I recognize my true self in how I feel, and the emotion I bring to my integrated self.  When most authentic, I am operating in a collaborative way with colleagues and not having to dictate but motivate.  Seeing much of my father’s influence, I tend to be agreeable and affable.  Interestingly, while that is my “natural habitat”, those that have worked with me describe me as intense and sometimes intimidating. Because I value transparency, I recognize when I’ve lost authenticity when I am overly filtering my actions or communications. It creates a palpable stress when I am unable to be transparent, collaborative and candid.

In 2015, I left a high paying job after turning a company around and eventually became the CFO of a troubled small private university because there was misalignment between my authentic self and the role I was being asked to play, post turn around.  While that resulted in a 50% cut in pay, the ability to help save a 125-year-old Benedictine university brought far more joy than I would have experienced cashing big paychecks.  That price was one worth paying. I also learned from the prior experience when it was time to transition to the next turn-around, as opposed to sacrificing my authenticity to conformity as the university returned to health.

Looking forward, the professional alignment of turn-around work is a good fit for my authentic approach valuing transparency, candor and collaboration. The situation is generally well known to the participants, and the ability to provide a vision of what success looks like as well as collaborate on the solutions is a benefit that sometimes is missing in more traditional management and leadership roles – where opacity and confidentiality is more valued.  The biggest step to take is to continue to put myself in situations where these values are paramount.  Because my life is very integrated, a misalignment of environment will result in inauthentic behavior in most aspects of my life simultaneously.

My authentic approach to leadership, formed through two strong leader parents and early leadership experience, is underpinned by transparency, candor and collaboration. The ability to make a difference in an organization or situation and be recognized for it is a critical component to my motivation – both intrinsic and extrinsic. For better or worse, my “work” life and my “personal” life are largely integrated, and I struggle with compartmentalization. That makes being my most authentic self critically important, as I can’t “escape” to one segment of my life to rest and recover from inauthentic flexing. When I am leading in a turn-around, I can lean heavily on these traits, and approach decision making and leadership in an authentic way.  I continue to be called on and called to these situations.  When the circumstances are operating in a steady-state, with more political elements and silos, my experience is less satisfying, and I experience significant stress and dissonance, and experience a need for change to an environment that is more conducive to my authentic style.





“Quotes” (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2018 from, CMG Worldwide,


Watts, L. (2018, September 22). Authentic leadership ppt 5 rev.pptx [PowerPoint].

South Charleston, WV.