URBS 230—Community Leadership and Service Learning

Authentic Leadership


These notes are based on Bob Terry’s Authentic Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 1993), although I have added some other material.


There are 7 types of leadership theory:

  1. Trait: Some theories stress the inborn or acquired personality characteristics of leaders. From this perspective, leaders are born or made young; personality is destiny. This perspective has the strength of focusing on knowledge—self-knowledge and astute judgment of others.
  2. Situational: In these theories, leadership is a dynamic interaction between people and the situation. Some people are better suited to lead in some situations and not in others (for example, one person in a team might be good at keeping the team focused on the task at hand while another might be good at keeping the group motivated or minimizing tensions). This approach has the advantage of focusing on sensitivity to the shifting context within which a leader operates.
  3. Organizational: In these theories, leadership comes from position in the organization (there is a saying in the military, “You are saluting the uniform, not the person inside it”). These theories can focus on the knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences that an individual will need to arrive at a leadership position, or on the characteristics which are best suited to lead an organization at a particular stage in its existence (for example, some people are great at generating new ideas and getting things started, but get bored once it gets down to routine “production”). This approach has the advantage of encouraging organizational astuteness in leaders.
  4. Power: Power theories are of two types—“power over” (building influence and support to accomplish what one wishes) and “power with” (shared and forward movement in a collective effort). This approach has the advantage of developing political savvy.
  5. Vision: In these theories, the leader is the one who can articulate the vision, whether by successfully extrapolating future trends or by creating a motivational vision. This approach focuses on creating a sense of direction for the group or organization.
  6. Ethical: In these views, leadership comes from meeting people’s needs and raising the level of moral reasoning in the process. It is rooted in integrity, both personal and organizational. This approach focuses on clarity and commitment.
  7. Authentic Leadership: Terry argues that all six of the previous approaches have their merits, but none are sufficient by themselves. He defines authentic leadership as “the courage to bring about authentic action in the commons.”
    1. authentic”—both true (abstract) and real (concrete); facing differences openly, embracing fears, living into a shared future.
    2. action”—engagement with life; not reducible to skills (but it is skillful); not passive or reactive.
    3. “in the commons”—public interaction in a world of differences; working in the commons for the common good


Terry also developed a model for leaders who want to diagnose and solve problems within their organizations. It works like this:

  1. There are four interdependent dimensions of any organization:
    1. Mission (purpose, direction, vision of the future)
    2. Power (expenditure of energy, activity of making and keeping decisions)
    3. Structure (form, plan, recurring patterns of activity)
    4. Resources (anything that can get distributed)
  2. These dimensions are related in a hierarchical fashion, based on
    1. Direction

                                                               i.      Mission directs power

                                                             ii.      Power energizes & modifies structure

                                                            iii.      Structure allocates resources

    1. Limitation

                                                               i.      Resources limit structure

                                                             ii.      Structure curtails power

                                                            iii.      Power restricts mission

  1. If you perceive a particular dimensions to be the root of a problem, its fundamental source is probably the level up in the hierarchy (e.g., if you perceive the problem to be structural, it is probably a power difficulty).
  2. It is the natural tendency of leaders to attempt to solve problems by going down the hierarchy (e.g., if you perceive a structural problem, your first instinct is to throw more resources at it).


Another significant thinker about leadership, Robert Greenleaf (Servant Leadership, Paulist Press, 1970), developed the idea of the leader as a person of humility and compassion, whose first concern is for the people she or he is leading rather than for one’s own status. Interestingly, he came to these ideas from his experiences in his career at AT&T. He wrote,


“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. He or she is sharply different from the person who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. For such it will be a later choice to serve – after leadership is established…..

The difference manifest itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived?”


Greenleaf’s ideas are strongly influenced by Christian teachings (one of the traditional titles of the Pope is servus servorum populi“servant of the servants of the people”). His ideas have inspired others to form the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.


Finally, Richard Leider argues that the essence of leadership is self-leadership. Change begins with oneself. He offers 20 tips for accomplishing this (in Leader of the Future, 1996):

  1. The quality of leader is reflected in relationships with others; be clear about your values because they reveal who you really are as a leader; recognize your stress level.
  2. We have choices; the willingness to exercise our choices is the source of a leader’s energy; gain control where you can.
  3. Recognize your addictions, so as not to be driven by others’ expectations; balance your life-style.
  4. Real change comes from changing your mental maps; spend at least 15 minutes a day reflecting on the big picture.
  5. Assess your leadership based on your own complete records, rather than anyone else’s partial, incomplete records; do what you love.
  6. Inventory your leadership talents; focus on strengths and manage weaknesses.
  7. Decide by what criteria you want your legacy measured; have a mentor.
  8. Continually reinvent yourself, realize that satisfaction always leads to dissatisfaction; challenge your comfort zone.
  9. Establish a solid support system; create a personal board of directors.
  10. Take the risk to initiate honest and creative face-to-face dialogue.
  11. Always know that there is something else you could do; develop a personal Plan B even before Plan A is achieved.
  12. Take control of your calendar; picture an ideal week.
  13. First make the important life decisions, then make the career decisions; have regular heart-to-heart conversations.
  14. Don’t waste you most valuable currency—time; blend personal and work priorities.
  15. Write a personal purpose statement; “Why did I get up this morning?
  16. Make consistent contact with a higher power greater than yourself; find a listening point.
  17. Leading from a clear, personal sense of purpose creates courage, and real courage attracts real followers.
  18. Integrity is doing little things consistently; leadership is built or destroyed by small day-to-day things that become a pattern.
  19. Overstress comes from reactive living; stress can break you down or energize you—the difference is how you perceive it.
  20. People are attracted to what is celebrated; lighten up.




2002 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 14 May 2010