Authentic Leadership – Part 2 / The Interview

Authentic Leadership and the four variables (self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing and relational transparency) were introduced in Part 1.

This posting will highlight an interview conducted by Danielle Sebranek who was an Employer Relations Graduate Assistant (GA) at the Florida State University (FSU) Career Center during my time there.

Danielle wanted a better understanding of Authentic Leadership and we agreed to partner on this interview project in the Spring 2018 semester, so she could ask questions to get a better Authentic Leadership understanding and how to integrate this leadership style into daily interactions with direct reports.

Danielle provided her approval to post her questions and overall summary below.  My direct responses follow her questions:

  • What first introduced you to the concept of authentic leadership? Is this something you sought out or did you naturally possess many of the qualities of a good authentic leader?
    • I stumbled across authentic leadership.  I wanted to complete my dissertation on the ‘1st Year Experience’ course but my advisor identified there was not enough Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology involved with this subject.  My dissertation mentor introduced me to Authentic Leadership.  I liked the idea because I could relate to this leadership style.  After doing additional research, Authentic Leadership was selected as my preferred leadership style.
  • What are some ways you seek to create a positive work environment for your team?
    • I use daily interactions, adjusted for each person. Some team members I high five, some get a fist bump or elbow, etc.  Others, I just say good morning.  Establishing this daily routine and having personal conversations helps them know you are there for them.  I also take their input into consideration.  It is not my style to only talk to my team when I need something from them.
  • Who/What inspired these practices? In your work history, have you had a positive work environment stand out to you?
    • Honestly, I look back on two of my worst supervisors. I made a vow to not do things I didn’t like about their supervisory style.  My years at Macon State College standout because my supervisor (now mentor) gave our team the freedom to find our niche and conduct outreach to students as we saw fit.  I played volleyball with students on-campus as part of my outreach program.  The students saw me as a person and approachable.  Overall, my supervisor was willing to see things differently.  Colin Powell’s leadership approach also influences me daily.
  • What experiences have shaped your self-awareness?
    • Becoming a leader in the Air Force was the start of being self-aware because I couldn’t assume everyone learns the same and knows what I mean without explanation. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Management Leadership Institute (MLI) feedback program was also important because I heard what past colleagues had to say about my work and I learned how others viewed me.  I learned you always need to check yourself and you need to be self-aware every day.  I approach my team on purpose; they don’t need to come to my office to approach me.
  • Is there someone in your past work experiences who showed relational transparency?
    • My mentor at Macon State College showed relational transparency. She took the time to explain processes.  My last Air Force supervisor was also good at pushing the team out to do things to understand the big picture.
  • How do you demonstrate relational transparency with your team?
    • I never sit on a high horse and say I’m the boss. I always listen to my team.  If something can’t be done, I make sure to explain the limitations.
  • What past experiences have helped you develop a strong internalized moral perspective?
    • I’ll share a conversation that has stuck with me and feels like it just happened yesterday. When I was a young Air Force instructor, a more veteran administrator observed my work and pulled me to the side for a quick chat.  He praised my work and asked me out of the blue if I wanted to know how to be successful in life.  He gifted me with this knowledge, “Be where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, when you’re supposed to do it”.  Never compromise yourself and not be able to look yourself in the mirror.
  • Using balanced processing and welcoming feedback from your team is something you practice on a regular basis. Is this something you received training on or did you learn from experience?
    • I learned from experience and through reading Colin Powell’s book on leadership principles. If you don’t get up and walk around, it gives the perception you don’t care.  That’s why I go to my people.  I realized this concept (walking around) was tied to authentic leadership after conducting additional research.
  • How has your leadership style changed from each industry you’ve worked in? Have some environments been easier or more difficult to lead with authenticity?
    • Yes, I have grown as a leader. In the Air Force, leadership was based on rank.  People can complain but ultimately you can order people to do things.  Leadership is adaptable, and I have grown to be adaptable by learning how different people on my team work.  I talk with Gen X team members differently than Millennials. I’m comfortable enough to understand conversations with team members will all be different.  I know when certain team members ask ‘why’, they aren’t questioning authority but looking to understand.  Overall, authentic leadership works with and helps balance a team with multiple generations present.

Danielle’s Summary:

My conversation with Dr. Williams provided valuable insight into how to both grow as a leader and adopt authentic leadership in the workplace.  Leaders are not born overnight; it takes conscious reflection and communication with others to develop the necessary self-awareness.  Practicing authentic leadership foremost entails establishing approachability with your direct reports.  Daily interactions, visiting your team in their space, taking the time to learn about their individual personalities and backgrounds, and valuing their voices and opinions all help to show you care.  Adaptability is also an essential component of authentic leadership.  Recognizing team members think and behave differently allows you to cater your interactions in a way that is relatable to them.  Lastly, Dr. Williams stressed the importance of mentorship and learning from example.  Find someone you look up to in your workplace and sit down with them to hear their story and how they implement leadership in their role.


Authentic Leadership


Authentic Leadership

“Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken”.

(Oscar Wilde)

Authentic Fish

Authentic Leadership is rooted in positive psychology and can lead to greater self-awareness and regulated behavior of leaders.  This leadership style continues to grow and can be applied to multiple organizations and work settings.

Authentic Leadership can be used to create positive work outcomes and improve organizational performance.  Authentic leaders are true to themselves, to others and are trusted by all levels.  Authentic leaders seek continued growth and can align thoughts, feelings and actions.  They are humble and consistent; this can be a positive predictor of direct report satisfaction.

The four components or variables of Authentic Leadership are:  self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing and relational transparency.

  • Self-awareness: the authentic leader has a full understanding of their strengths, values, weaknesses and how others view their leadership
  • Relational Transparency: the authentic leader presents authentic self to build trust.  They are consistent with words, thoughts and actions.
  • Internalized Moral Perspective: ability to integrate personal morals with self-perspective.  The leader must be self-aware to understand how their internal morals influence their actions.
  • Balanced Processing: the authentic leader can view both sides of an issue (positive and negative) before deciding.  This encourages the leader to seek multiple views and opinions and eliminates taking a defensive position when information is received.
    • My research shows direct report job satisfaction is best explained when leaders display balanced processing.

Authentic Leadership implications for the work place

  • Interventions are received better
  • Work place efficiency improves
  • Encourages direct reports engagement
  • The leader is approachable, trusted, influential and displays relational interactions with direct reports

How can you leverage Authentic Leadership in your work environment?  How would an Authentic leader impact your current work place?

Authentic Leadership Part 2




The series of daily challenges presented

Provides a template to view

How to conquer the challenges?

It is all up to you

Life provides many opportunities to grow

The direction you chose, only you will know

Continue to strive through the growing process

Knowing you hold the key to it all

The wisdom you gain

Helps to move your journey forward

And makes the challenges easier to maintain



Kayak Adventures

Decided to explore the Wacissa River today via Kayak.  Wanted to add a new adventure to my ‘Walk into the Future’ and did some research on local Kayak outfitters.  Discovered the Wacissa River Canoe and Kayak Rentals outfit was only a 20-minute drive from me and had very reasonable prices for their rental options.

The owners and staff were very friendly and had great knowledge of the Wacissa River and the multiple channels that branched off from the main river.  They outfitted me with a sit-on kayak, life vest, paddle, map and final instructions for my adventure.

Launching off was easy and the day on the river began with me exploring multiple local inlets close to the outfitters docks.  I realized it has been right at 4 years since I last kayaked so needed to get my balance and paddle rotations down again.  Took me about 10 minutes to get the hang of kayaking again and I was off.

There was a lot off overhead cover (shade) on the initial part of my adventure.  The outfitters also rent cabins that sit right on the river, so I rode by several of them on my way out to the open waters of the Wacissa river.  There were a few other kayakers out but not a lot of water traffic or noise during the time out on the water.

The wild life on the river was close by and amazing!  Saw several different type and shape turtles just hanging out and sunning themselves.  Of course, every time I tried to get close to take a picture, they immediately dove to get away from me.

It took about an hour of paddling the river before I spotted my first eagle.  Very impressive birds but when experienced in the wild they can be awe inspiring.  I was able to float for a bit and watch one have a large fish for lunch.  Got a couple pictures of this without disturbing the eagle or making it decide to dive bomb me.

What’s a kayak trip on a river in North Florida without gators?  Spotted my first one of the day swimming close to where I was observing my eagle friend.  Decided to paddle closer to the gator which was about 7 feet long to get some ‘up close’ photos.  This all made sense when I started paddling.  Luckily, I came to my senses before I got too close to the gator because I had no Plan B for what I would do if it took serious interest in me.  Decided to float a bit instead of heading towards the gator and freaking us both out.  I was able to get some pictures of smaller gators but didn’t linger too long to avoid disturbing them or freaking myself out.

Turning to head back in allowed me to fully take in how far I had traveled on the river without really thinking about distance.  Still didn’t worry about distance but rediscovered kayaking is a great way to burn some calories.  The rotational paddle motion needed to move the kayak will really work your arms, shoulders and core.  Didn’t rush to get back, simply enjoyed the river and the views provided as I came back to the outfitters.

Highly recommend getting out on a kayak or canoe and taking in a peaceful day on the river.

Just don’t disturb gators!

Check out my new friends if you want to kayak the Wacissa:


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