The 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership

Many people have written on what it means to be a leader. Almost everyone identifies influence as the primary characteristic. By definition, this means that leadership and position are two different things. You can have a title, and a position of power, but this does not mean that you are a leader. Even people without these things can exert influence and thus leadership.

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But leadership is more than influence. It certainly includes influence, but it is more. I believe it includes at least five characteristics. When I speak on this topic, I call these “the five marks of authentic leadership”:

  1. Authentic leaders have insight. Sometimes we refer to this as vision, but that usually has exclusive reference to the future. While leaders must have vision, they need more. They need wisdom and discernment. (Click here to tweet that.)

    They need to be able to look at complex situations, gain clarity, and determine a course of action. In the Bible, “[The] men of Issachar … understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). This is what I mean by insight.

  2. Authentic leaders demonstrate initiative. They go first. They don’t sit on the sidelines. They don’t ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves. Instead, they lead by example. Lt. Col. Hal Moore is a great example of this. Famously depicted by Mel Gibson in the movie, We Were Soldiers, Lt. Moore told his troops, before leaving for Vietnam,

    We are going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I’ll be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together, so help me God.”

  3. Authentic leaders exert influence. It’s no coincidence that influence and influenza (the flu) come from the same root word. Real leaders are contagious. (Click here to tweet that.) People “catch” what they have. People are drawn to their vision and their values. They are able to gather a following and move people to act. To change metaphors, they are like human wave pools, creating a ripple effect wherever they go.
  4. Authentic leaders have impact. At the end of the day, leaders make a difference. The world is changed because of their leadership. They are able to create real and lasting change. Unless something has shifted, they aren’t leaders. They are only entertainers. There is a big difference. The measure of leadership cannot be found in the leader; it is found in the impact the leader has on his or her followers.
  5. Authentic leaders exercise integrity. Not every leader is benevolent. Adolf Hitler was a leader, as was Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin. They had insight, initiative, influence, and impact. Yet their lives were not integrated with the highest values. Integrity—or the lack thereof—ultimately determines the quality of a person’s impact. In a sense, this is the foundation of authentic leadership.

Leaders must be deliberate and intentional if they are to be successful. These five qualities can guide us as we grow in our ability to lead.

Question: Do these attributes mark your leadership? Where can you improve?
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  • James

    In my life as a leader I continually strive to meet the five characteristics shown above. There are days when it all clicks and there are those where things don't work out so well. Although I have come a long way I can still use improvement in all areas.
    My recent post What are you reading?

    • Tim Peters

      James I am in a similar position as you.  I would love to exhibit all five characteristics above but I know some days will not be the case of my leadership. Let us keep moving forward. 

  • Shef

    Thanks Michael,

    I love the difference between “vision” and “insight.” I think this is the first time I’ve seen someone differentiate those two. I’ve never felt like “vision” was enough to explain it. You just helped me a great deal.


    • Michael Hyatt

      I want to develop this “insight” vs. “vision” thing. I just got to thinking about the root meaning of in-sight—“to peer within” or to “see inside” a situation. I think it encompasses vision, but is more than that.

      Thanks for your comments!

      • Shef

        To me….vision is important. Vision with wisdom…is better. Vision, with wisdom, and self-understanding (emotional intelligence, limitations, gifts, etc.)…is powerful. Vision, wisdom, self-understanding, and relational understanding (need a better word here)….that's insight.
        My recent post Getting Stuff – Part 2

      • Peter Eleazar

        To me insight is the ability to discern what is wrong, but vision is the ability to develop a solution. That said, your differentiation of the two is important, because they are interdependent skills.

    • guest

      my understanding of insight is observing the core of any situation and finding a strategic way of dealing with it,thus deriving a vision

  • Geoff Webb

    What a terrific post. I had a feeling something great was simmering in you for us today. I couldn't agree more; thanks for fracturing the "leadership = influence" platitude.

    For me, I'd say God is working on my initiative and integrity right now. Initiative, in that I'm engaged in a sustained battle against what I call the Drift – that constant pull toward the everyday, the ordinary, the status quo. Integrity, in that I have an intense desire to find my identity in Christ alone and therefore be the same person wherever I am, whoever I'm with, and whatever I'm doing.

    Thanks again.

    My recent post Using the “F” Word as a Leader

    • Michael Hyatt

      Initiative is my big one, too. Steven Pressfield calls the drift, The Resistance in the The War of Art. It is a great book.

      I have also written on Shift the Drift here (slightly different meaning).

      • Geoff Webb

        Don Miller recommended The Art of War to me last Fall. Now you. Okay, I get it. I'm on it.

        I liked your take on the drift – and shifting it – thanks for pointing me to that post.

        As I said, I loved this post so much I blogged about it myself today, trying to add some practical tips to help people integrate these concepts into their leadership. Hope it helps.

        The link is here…
        My recent post 10 Tips for Becoming an Authentic Leader

  • Paul Andrew

    Thanks again, Michael. Authenticity seems to have fallen out of fashion in some schools of leadership, but I truly believe the authentic leader has the greatest and most enduring impact.
    My recent post What Every Leader Wants (And Why Most Don’t Get It)

    • Tim Peters

      Thanks for the comment and good article. 

  • WomenLivingWell

    Sometimes I fear my insight is limited by my age…but God uses me despite myself!!! Excellent list to evaluate myself by! Thank you!
    My recent post Your Marriage Problems Are All In Your Head

    • Tim Peters

      Good article.  With three young kids I can understand your position.  As well as my wife.  

  • John Richardson

    Michael, what a timely post. I am sitting here this morning contemplating a huge 12 week project in front of me. It will involve a lot of people and take me way out of my comfort zone in many areas. My main goal is "impact," but I have to take the first step and the fear of the unknown is causing me to pause. I prayed this morning that God would give me a sign whether or not to get started. Your number 2 above gave me the answer I was looking for. To be a real leader I'll need the initiative to get going… no one else is going to do it for me.

    Thank you for your powerful insight.
    My recent post You Gotta See This!

    • Tim Peters

      John, praying for your 12 week project. 

  • Daniel Decker

    Love this post! Printing it out for my “Thought Wall” above my desk. I think you really clarified something here. Many refer to INFLUENCE as a “characteristic” of a great leader but perhaps that’s the wrong way to look at it. INFLUENCE is really a byproduct or end-result of these other characteristics coming together. There is a difference. If INFLUENCE were the soup, these characteristics are the ingredients that make it great. :)

    Wish there was an “i” word for Humility. That could make #6 on the list.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think humility could be part of insight or even integrity. I’ll have to ponder this some more. Thanks for your comments!

      • Chad

        Humility that is where I fall and hit my head often. I just read this verse this morning.
        What do I have that I did not receive? 1 Cor 4:7
        Thank you for the post.

      • Daniel Decker

        Yeah, I agree but in some aspects Humility could stand alone. Guess it also depends on how one defines each. To me integrity is sort of an all inclusive compass that guides our decisions. The core of who we are. Insight being more of an understanding. Humility being part of the whole but a selflessness to lead with the value of others being placed above oneself.

        Might be something fun to dissect for a future post.

    • John Richardson

      John Maxwell has a great book entitled, "Becoming A Person of Influence," that really delves into this subject. He breaks influence into ten different attributes including faith, understanding, and nurturing. I think you are right, Daniel, that Influence is a by-product of other leadership traits.

      • Michael Hyatt

        That book is one of my favorites!

    • Mayette_41

      I totally agree to include Humility as #6 on the list..Great insights.

  • Dennis

    Thank you for this post. I needed to see these things spelled out and you have helped me understand some of my failures as a leader both at home and in church. I only have one question: When are you coming out with a study guide?:)
    My recent post Hey Dad, You Can Take Off Your Cape

    • Michael Hyatt

      I actually want to write a book on this topic. It’s in the queue! Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Chris Stevens

    So great that you wrote about this today. I agree with Geoff Webb….God has really been working on me in the areas of initiative and integrity. Just last night, I scheduled a series of blog posts to go up this week about what the Lord has been showing me about integrity. Thanks so much Michael!

  • Juan

    Great post Mike,
    Leadership is walking the talking and teaching others exactly how to become a leader.
    Living the values, the priciples and then teaching them to develop other leaders like them.
    In my personal opinion a greatest responsibility of the Leader is to develop other Leaders (no followers).

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. In fact, 2 Timothy 2:22 says, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This demonstrates that that the job is at least four generations deep (i.e., Paul, Timothy, Timothy's disciples, Timothy’s disciples’ disciples).

    • WomenLivingWell

      Juan – thank you for this comment – this just really hit the nail on the head for me – I needed to read that to help me see the true goal. I have a lot of "blog followers" but that's not the end goal! It's to develop them so they can reproduce! Beautifully put – thank you!!!


      My recent post Your Marriage Problems Are All In Your Head

      • Juan

        Thanks for your kind words.

  • Ron Lane

    Michael, I really like the analogy that you used for influence and influenza. You really do "catch" what a great leader is doing and you want to be a part of it. I wrote about this in my blog this morning too. I think that one thing that makes people want to follow a great leader is that they know that they leader will do the right thing. I also believe that a leader has enthusiasm that is catchy too.

    My recent post The power of a decision

  • SpenceSmith

    For me, insight has been the one trait to come along a little slower than the others. I've always wanted to lead others and find myself leading more today than ever before but i think it's because of developing more insight along the way. Insight is one of those traits that comes with experience. the less experience you have in an area of life the less insight you might have in that area. I think these traits should be posted on my wall just to remind me of who it is that i am and should always strive to be when leading others and to not take that responsibility lightly.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think this is right, Spence. Almost anyone can develop a vision. But it takes experience to gain insight or wisdom. In fact, in mostly comes from making bad decisions and learning from them!

  • Scott Williams

    This is good stuff and oh-so true… I think it's key that you stated "Authentic leaders have impact!" "Have" being the operative word. I believe people will work or play for a leader who lacks integrity; however they will not truly follow them. That's why it's so difficult for leaders who fall because of integrity issues to ever be the leader they once were.

    I think the answer to your question yes, however I think that's a perfect question for all of us to ask those we influence, impact and lead.
    My recent post Twitter Is In The Bible (Part 2)

  • kevin

    Great post. As a young leader, I am grateful for people like you who share your wisdom (especially with a Kingdom perspective). Initiative is huge. Roll up your sleeves and be willing to get dirty. That carries such a huge weight of impact within a team. This will be a post to print off and keep as a resource.

  • Thomas Stanley

    I like the concept that: leadership and position are two different things. I’ve come to understand that Leadership is an action, not a position nor authority. It seems that most people confuse leadership and authority and often interchange the two words. MH you’ve done a good job of seperating the two.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Thomas. I wish I could claim that the idea is original. I think almost everyone I have read on the topic makes the distinction. It is an important one.

  • @jmiles_tms

    Great article, I think your list is right on. I love your example of Hal Moore for initiative. I'm reading Derailed right now (thank you by the way, I received it from one of your free book giveaways) and every leader profiled in the book could have used this list.

    • Michael Hyatt

      So true. It is a good checklist for all of us, I think.

  • Rusty Boozer

    Michael – Thank you for the great post. I love the way you have described "Leadership". So often I think folks believe that this is only for someone in your position but it is so true of everyone. Wether it's leadership as a husband or father, a co-worker, or just a contributing person in the world. Thanks again for you insight.

  • bondChristian

    I'd add two things that I try to keep in mind for leadership:

    1. Leaders are leaders because they know who to follow.

    2. Leaders already thought through what followers are going through.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    • Tim Peters

      Interesting points.  Thanks for additions. 

  • gladwellmusau

    Amen. I can't imagine a more perfect yet simplified example of the mark of true leadership. I like especially this statement…the measure of leadership is not found in the leader but the leader's impact on his/her followers. That is so true.


  • joseph

    Thanks Michael. I have been talking about leadership with the junior high and high schoolers at our Wednesday night homework club at our church. For the most part these are students that have been caught in the downward spiral and don't think they can lead. Having talked with them for a couple months now on the topic I am starting to see the light turn on in their eyes and actions. They are truly stepping up! I plan on sharing some of your toughts with them. I think they will like them.
    My recent post Ruined for the Ordinary – Acts 4

  • Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    Another great post MH. One attribute of leadership is to always be learning, so I suppose we can all improve in all these areas. However, I find myself mostly working on influence these days – particularly upward influence. There is a delicate balance when influencing up.

    Of course, I also feel it’s important that leaders practice all these marks in the framework of serving others. Otherwise, personal ambition can drive the wrong results. Thanks for sharing!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Learning and serving are both very important. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kevin_Martineau

    Wow! Great list here! I am going to need some time to let these truths sink in though! :)
    My recent post Sermon Synopsis 3/7 – A disciple passes on the good news

  • jcatron

    Wow! This is powerful. I have always wrestled with the "leadership is influence" axiom. You clarified so much about what is left out of that definition of leadership. Thank you Mike!

  • mikemyatt


    This is a great post that all leaders should take to heart. The following link is to an older post in which I offer an expanded list if you're interested Michael:

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Mike. You have really created a comprehensive list! Wow.

  • Kyle Reed

    I would work for a leader that displays even two or three of these characteristics. But if I could find a leader that demonstrated all 5, I would work for free.
    Would love to find a leader like the one you described.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It certainly gives us all a goal to shoot for!

  • patriciazell

    Being authentic or real in a world where so much is deceptive is a real challenge and takes a concentrated focus. Thanks, Michael, for sharing the qualities that not only make effective business leaders, but also effective educators, parents, and believers in Christ. People recognize authenticity and are drawn to it wherever they find it. My prayer is that we all find the reality of God's absolute love and mirror its authenticity to all we come in contact with. I am so looking forward to the change that is coming to our world!
    My recent post #33 THE DOING OF BELIEVING: FAITH (1)

  • Nikole Hahn

    Once upon a time I would never have considered myself a leader. I always thought I was the worker bee, the follower, and now, in the past years, I've discovered small changes occuring in me. I take initiative where once I was too shy to raise my hand. This is a great blog post.

  • Cheryl B. Lemine

    Maybe these are a few reasons Scripture encourages (commands?) us to pray for those in leadership.
    My recent post FUN: Shopping in the Bathroom

  • Rachel Miller

    Of all the points, I think influence has been the hardest for me to cultivate in my life. I try as hard as I can to model the behavior I want, but it usually seems to bounce off. I've not yet discovered where that is going wrong, but I'm always praying about it. I'm sure God is the best person to consult when leading any group of people.

    One point I noticed you left out is that authentic (Christian) leaders are supposed to be humble. Jesus instructed the disciples to be servants, and even modeled that behavior in the Last Supper, when He washed His disciples' feet. A few years ago I read a book by C. Gene Wilkes called Jesus on Leadership (yes, I know that is a Tyndale publication). After reading that, I realized that the servant's heart is essential to leadership. It is an underlying characteristic of all of your points.

  • obihaive

    I could use some help with insight and initiative. But I wonder sometimes if there are just some people who are naturally gifted leaders and those of us who are just wannabes. I do things like read blogs by leaders and purchase books on leadership but it still seems that I lack as a leader no matter how I try. I don’t know, I guess I’m just venting.
    Thanks for the post though, very insightful.

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  • Gary Walter

    Interesting – this isn't quite what I expected. I think, in my mind, I have a different definition for "authentic." Not that this is a bad post, mind you. I'm not saying that. In fact, this is good stuff. But in my mind, I tend to link authenticity, transparency, and integrity more closely.

    So, when I think of an authentic leader, I'm actually thinking of someone who is the same person in private and in public. I think of someone who treats their spouse and children the same way they treat their employees, subordinates, and superiors. I think of someone who is everything you wrote about, but is non-pretentious – and real.

    Not being an English-major (h/t to Garrison Keillor), and being too lazy (and busy) to look up "real" definitions right now – that's about as good as I can explain it.

    What do y'all think? Is their room for this expanded/augmented definition of "Authentic?"

    My recent post unChurched…again.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I definitely think that is one meaning of authentic. I meant it in the “real” sense. In other words, real leaders vs. faux leaders or those who only hold a position.

      • Gary Walter

        I understand – and in that arena, you scored! ;)

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  • mightyrasing

    Hi Michael, Great post. I've read a number of times before that Influence is the single best quality that defines a leader. While your post does not entirely dismiss influence, I like how you put it in its proper perspective. Not everyone who wields influence in an organization can be a leader even in an informal way. Sure, a person with influence can certainly disrupt some processes but not necessarily wield leadership positively.
    My recent post Corazon Aquino Biography: Political Leadership for the Filipino People

  • Bob

    Why is everyone missing the obvious. Leadership is ALWAYS a bi-product of ACHIEVEMENT. Consider the NFL this year. Who was the LEADING rusher in the NFL. It was not the running back who had the most authentic integrity, influence, impact, insight or initiative. The running back is declared the LEADER by ACHIEVEMENT.

    How about Daniel Snyder, the controversial owner of the Washington Redskins. Is he a great leader? Many would say "no" based on how his decision making has hurt the team. However, he carries the same qualities and personal characteristics into his other businesses with Six flags, Dick Clark Productions etc. He has a net worth of 1.3 billion dollars. Is he a leader in his field? Many would say yes. Why? By his ACHIEVEMENT. Tony Dungy would never have been called a GREAT leader unless he won! Since ACHIEVING in the NFL, he has been declared one of the 25 most influential LEADERS of our time.

    The truth of the matter is this.

    The Five marks of leadership identified are great. But they do not create leadership. Achievement creates leadership. The Five authentic Marks sustain it.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don't deny that achievement is important. But I think it is broader than that. That's why I used the term impact. It all has to culminate in measurable impact. However, integrity determines the moral direction of that impact. There are lots of people who have accomplished great things and lost themselves and their legacy in the process. I am after something more.

      Thanks for your input.

      • Bob


        I too am after something so much more. God has allowed me to use my gifts for His glory. Something I am thankful for each day. But in a world of leadership experts, I feel it becomes overstated content for people to continue to produce laundry lists and diminish the role of producing a PROMINENT ACHIEVEMENT. I agree that integrity determines the moral direction, but to lump achievement or "impact" with a list of personal characteristics in my mind is diminishing its role.

        In your industry it would be like you saying to a new author," have integrity, insight, influence, initiative and oh by the way, it needs to achieve and impact as well. (produce PROMINENCE and SALES) (sales being achievement)

        When in truth, one of the determining factors in taking on new authors is their prominence and achievement. It is not lumped together with their character as a person. I think a much better model would be an "X" graph with PROMINENT ACHIEVEMENT on one axis and PERSONAL INTEGRITY on the other.

        Please understand, I am not meaning to be combative. In truth, I absolutely love what you and Thomas Nelson stand for. I simply think that in a world of overstated leadership teaching, the time has come to provide a new, fresh, and distinct model to how leadership really plays out.

        You are a blessing to many Michael. Thank you for taking the time to discuss this crucial skill.

  • therealmotherlode

    Man, I feel like a glutton at a Golden Corral when I read your blog…such great information and insight….an extra bonus: No calories!

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  • shrinkingthecamel

    Michael – I think the one point you included here that most leadership lists tend to leave out is "Impact." Everyone wants to be a leader, it seems, but how many can push through in an organization to acually make a substantial, worthwhile, valuable contribution? I don't care how many people-skills someone might have, if you can't deliver results, then you have not shown leadership. And that is very difficult, at least in the organizations I have worked for. ____Thanks, as always for a great, thought-provoking post.

  • Mark Mathson

    Michael, I am one to always strive for improvement. If we sit on our laurels and never progress, what do we achieve or get? Nothing!

    Being an authentic leader, and as you described, don't exert power and influence only from a bestowed perspective, but rather earn it, is critical to being a successful leader of anything.
    My recent post Praising Others: Sunlight for the Human Soul

  • Elizabeth

    Truly an inspirational post. Thanks for organizing your thoughts and sharing! Not only are you a leader, you are a teaching leader. Even better. I will be visiting your site often to learn more from you. May God bless the work of your hands.
    My recent post Confession #10: Inspired by Courage

  • Tim Dahl

    This post has me thinking. I evaluate myself fairly low in all of these areas. To be honest, I never thought of myself as a leader, and to this day I still wonder why God called me to the pastorate. This makes it difficult. However, all is not lost. As I look at the five characteristics listed above, some of them seem to be things that can be worked on.

    For instance, wisdom tends to be gained by spending quality time with wise people, as well as experience. So, I see some things I can do to gain wisdom/insight. Next, Initiative is also something that can be worked on through consistent practice and accountability. We make our list, share out list, start w/ task one and GO(!), share with accountability partner afterwards for for the encouragement needed.

    I think Integrity, Influence and Impact might be a little harder to develop. Integrity has to do with authenticity, with doing what you're supposed to do, and keeping one's word (imo). That is something set up over time. Influence may depend upon the values/vision that one personifies. This is where some self-evaluation, and some time finding one's center can come into play. For me, much of this is determined by my understanding of God, his will, and what he has for me at this time. However, I'm never promised that impact will follow my obedience. Often times we say that the results (impact) are left up to God, even if we don't see any.

    Thank you for the timely post. Keep it up!

    Tim Dahl
    My recent post Mary Poppins, Jolly Holiday…

  • Martin Sawdon

    I very much like this list and there are two additions I would make. Firstly a leader needs some style flexibility. As a general rule I am very much in favour of a collaborative style but depending on the occasion there are times when everything between "command-and-control" and "hands off" are appropriate. When you see flames, the best response is rarely to strike a working group to develop a response.

    The second addition is rarely mentioned but vitally important. The effective leader needs to be thoroughly aware of the coaching concept of Needs and Values and their importance in facilitating not only her/his own best performance but also that of everyone else in the organization.

    Personal Needs are all about recognizing the conditions I need to put in place to ensure I am able to perform consistently, well towards the top of my ability. They are neither right nor wrong but undealt with, are at best a handicap and at worst provide the unscrupulous with a tool for manipulation.

    On the other hand, Values represent who I am, not only in terms of the moral and ethical but the activities, skills, talents we possess which I enjoy so much I will continue to practise them even when I am independently wealthy.

    The most effective leaders firstly recognize their Needs and get them met and then ensure that their field of activity embraces their Values. After that they harness those same characteristics to ensure that everyone else in their organization is able to perform at their best too.

    I use an assessment in the public domain to determine Needs and Values and will be happy to share it.

  • Marc Velazquez

    Dittoes on the great post. I’m tempted to send a link to my Pastor, as he loves having his sermon points start with the same letter. I believe our current President lacks the “insight” attribute, as he just does not have the experience to tackle the problems he’s facing now.

    I would caution you on using the term integrity. By definition integrity is a measure of how someone’s morals (what they believe to be right) line up with their ethics (what they actually do). We tend to think of integrity like the corollary to the Golden Rule: Others should act the way we expect them to act. Osama bin Laden was an incredibly authentic leader if you allow for integrity to reflect his beliefs (destroy the infidels). His insight, initiative, influence, and impact will be hashed out by historians for the next few centuries. His integrity depends on your perspective.

  • Bernard S. Jansen

    By your definition, there are few authentic leaders in leadership positions. As you said, "…leadership and position are two different things.

    It's great that you chose five marks that start with "i". This gives us half a chance of remembering them.
    My recent post Sue and I

  • familyinsights

    INTEGRITY — to me, that is what separates a public figure from a true leader. When a public figure (whether it be a Pastor, a well known author, singer, etc) lacks integrity, his/her leadership is significantly impacted.

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  • Peter Eleazar

    ‘Tis a good list indeed, and useful.

    However, I can’t help feeling that all the attributes listed are about influence. More than that, I would submit that God is also an influencer. The rules of engagement by which He has constrained Himself, in terms of our free will and the autonomy of life, means that He has to bring us on side through relational processes, not edict. Thus, when He moved Jesus until Herod died, He showed deference to the authority of Herod and worked around it, not through it.

    In our personal lives, He will often nudge us around obstacles or harness dilemmas to shape us to His cause, but He rarely waves it all away, for all His authority. Even Michael Porter observed that CEO’s “bungle with purpose”, for the links between cause and effect are just too blurred.

    Life is too ambiguous to assume greater leverage over life or human volition, but many will follow sound insight, initiative, integrity, impact and influence. However, they would just as soon follow images or contrive their own golden calf.

    Thus the church must be a relevant witness if it is to influence the world, because the days of authoritive sway and inquisitions are no more. To that end, maybe we need leadership, more than leaders, per se.

  • theresaipfroehlich

    Fabulous post on Authentic Leadership. There was a time when leadership was defined more like the military model – the hierarchy determines who leads. Leadership in the last few decades, at least in America, has evolved into a more egalitarian model because of the knowledge (due in part to technological advance) explosion. Peter Drucker calls people in the workplace "knowledge workers". In the end, leaders do exercise authority and influence simultaneously. To be effective and authentic, I think influence needs to be the dominant conduit.

  • @MichaelDauph

    Wow. Thanks for this. Simple and applicable.

  • David Valencia

    what about humility?…most leaders are proud and insecure!…they walk over people instead of serving them.
    Of course if they serve it is when it's ? What about sacrifice?
    Is not sacrifice the experience of being hurt because you are giving up something dear to you for the sake of someone else?

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  • Ria Hawkins, Ph.D.

    To complete my Ph.D. I researched a ton of leaders, leaders that I believe are mindful.  One capacity evident throughout all of them was authenticity.  I enjoyed this post and encourage you to check out mine and let me know what you think.

  • Soderquist Center

    Here’s an example of someone who doesn’t have all 5 of those marks. Check it out!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Really hilarious. I laughed out loud.

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  • Gary Duke

    Great insight.  I ordered your new book, subscribed to your blog.  Thank you!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Gary. I appreciate that.

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  • Keiki Hendrix

    Wonderful post. There is a huge difference between leadership and influence.

  • Katie McAleece

    Definitely so true that position/title doesn’t make someone a leader. Some of the greatest leaders I’ve known didn’t even have a fancy title behind their name.

    This is a great post! I’m glad you re-shared it with us.

  • BarbaraMcDowellWhitt

    Michael, I hope you have had a wonderful and restful vacation. I like your five “i” words for describing authentic leaders. As I see it, the first two and the last one are necessary for the third and fourth ones to happen. 

    Leadership, I think, needs to have less emphasis on the “I” of the leader and be more about the “You” of those who are being led.Years ago my mother and my English teacher (I was blessed to have the same English teacher all four years of high school) said never to start a sentence in our creative writing with “I.” These days I wonder a lot about who it was that started the “always capitalize the letter ‘i’ when writing about yourself including when it is in the middle of a sentence.” If we capitalize “I” shouldn’t we also capitalize “You,” “She,” “He,” and “They?”And writing of “I,” now days i also wonder about how the “internet” got capitalized.

  • Tguard

    Great post. Several people have hit on the topic of humility and I want to comment on it a step further. As a leader of my home, business, and now moving into a role of spiritual leadership within ministry… I see alot of leaders not being willing to humble themselves (by being honest) for, what they believe to be, the benefit of those they lead. Nothing is more important than honesty and there is nothing more honest than to admit failure (we all know, we all do it)… whether that’s failure in a decision or failure of character. I want to train myself and those around me to handle failure with the right perspective (spiritual/social/others-serving) and responsibility. If as leaders, we get too caught up in pleasing people for the sake of “being a great leader”, we miss the most important lesson we could pass on… that “failure” is part of being a leader (maybe the most important part). It’s how you deal with failure that determines the depth of your authentic leadership. If those around me learn nothing about how to fail with integrity, I have failed. Anyone can win… few can lose and still win.

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  • Terry Hadaway

    It’s ironic that in the place where leadership is most needed–the church–it is often most absent. Jesus modeled leadership for us. However, the approach of many church leaders today looks like it was taken from the pages of a failed corporation.

  • Russell

    Very insightful, I struggle with creating impactful change (at least I belive so). This was very helpful, thanks for sharing.

  • Chris Coussens

    These are pretty much how I measure leadership. I feel like insight is always a growth area. Wisdom comes from experience and often from failing or pain. What’s the value of real wisdom? As the commercial (and in this case the bible) says… Priceless.

  • John Gardner

    A very “I”nspiring article. I gained
    much from that. As a high school band director, near the end of every school
    year as seniors (much of the leadership pool in any h/s band) prepare to
    graduate, those taking their place tend to feel inadequate. I will use some of
    what you said in the future.

  • Reynaldo Camingal

    Thank you Sir Michael! Leaders must practice HONESTY all the time even in small things or big things..much more when no one is watching.

  • derekouellette

    Hey Michael, in your first point there’s this amazing feature that blew me away! In that paragraph you wrote a tweetable sentence and then had “click here to tweet that” (I did, btw). How did you set that so that when I clicked “here”, that line (not the whole paragraph, nor just a general link to the article) came up for me to tweet, along with a link to the article.

    It’s a nifty trick I’d love to learn.

  • john chong

    Great stuff!  Trudi you are a awesome leader!!  Love the quotes…   

  • john chong

    Great stuff!  Trudi you are a awesome leader!!  Love the quotes…

  • guest

    Good article, but what does it have to do with a male model in a swimsuit jumping into the water?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Real leaders take initiative—they go first and take the plunge.

      • Sarah 187

         A very good answer!

  • John M Davidson

    What a fantastic piece!   Thank you for this – for myself, this couldn’t have been delivered at a better time, as I seek to by a more authentic and godly leader in my business and personal life with my family.  Thank you for inspiring me every day! 

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  • Lisa Gray

    Sounds much like Follet with a dash oh Kousez and Posner…

  • Terry

    Whilst I totally agree this these five marks of a leader.  I’m not sure how they make the leader authentic.  Isn’t authenticity about the leader behaving in alignment with their personality, values or beliefs? 

    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m using authentic in the the sense of “real.”

  • Grace4delia

    Daily I struggle with leadership, I don’t like being a leader, but God keeps putting me in leadership positions.  I read these attributes and can honestly say that I do my best to practice these things. Thank you for this, it is a great encouragement.

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  • Quintessential Leader

    They do. I cover the same attributes at, and I discuss in-depth the component of integrity in my book, “Building Trust and Being Trustworthy,” available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle versions. Excellent post.

  • Deborah Tutnauer

    Powerful list, particularly the last one – Integrity. It is one of my core values, yet something I often find lacking in “leaders”. You are correct, that there have been many leaders in history who operate from a place far from integrity.

    It appears the distinction you make is with the word “Authentic”. Though when it comes to integrity maybe what is really being spoken about is the use of power for good, rather than evil. I would argue that Hitler and Stalin were absolutely Authentic in that they lived and represented boldly that which they believed. As observers, we can assume from their actions that they were truly operating in authentic alignment with their own core values. What the world experienced with them and others is evil incarnate.

    Leadership comes with responsibility and one would hope those who have engendered a following and the power that is inherent would choose to exercise their power with the highest integrity and for the greatest good.

    Thank you Michael for this thought provoking post. This is my first time visiting your blog and I’m glad I found my way here.