Authentic Leadership Unlabeled

Demystify overused labels associated with leadership

Gary A. DePaul, PhD (he/him/his)
2 min readNov 27, 2020


I’ve started a new mission: to demystify labels that professionals throw around that become normalized corporate jargon. Authentic leadership is one of those worth examining.

I’ve written about leadership myths and what leadership really means. I’ve even written about how useless all those leadership theories in helping me become a better professional. What I didn’t study in graduate school was authentic leadership.

Authenticity has more to do with being a strong professional than practicing leadership in a particular way.

Of the two words, authentic is more meaningful. Being authentic means that you reflect what you think and feel in what you say and how you act. In the counseling profession, it means having harmony between your thoughts and behaviors. Executives whom I worked with enjoyed telling others that if you talk the talk, then you better walk the walk.

Is authentic leadership meaningful?

Try reading the Wikipedia entry for authentic leadership but substitute the word leader with professional and leadership with professionalship. I did this by copying and pasting the entry into a Word file. I then used the Find/Replace function to change leader to professional (which changed leadership to professionalship as well). For some sentences, it might read better to replace leaders with managers. Here’s an example:

Original Wikipedia sentence

This approach has been fully embraced by many leaders and leadership coaches who view authentic leadership as an alternative to leaders who emphasize profit and share price over people and ethics.

Revised sentence with some grammar improvements

Many professional coaches have fully embraced and view authentic professionalship as an alternative to managers who emphasize profit and share price over people and ethics.

Too often, authors mistakenly interchange leader with manager because they don’t understand the real difference between leadership and management. In the original Wikipedia sentence above, the author was wrong: managers, not leaders, might emphasize profit and share price.

About the author

Gary is a Leadership Author, Researcher, Consultant, and Podcast Guest. His latest book, What the Heck Is Leadership and Why Should I Care?, is available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. You can learn more about Gary and his other books at



Gary A. DePaul, PhD (he/him/his)

Gary is a speaker, author, researcher, and leadership futurist.