What is Authentic leadership and what isn’t?

What is Authentic leadership?

In our view, Authentic leadership is leadership where your deepest sense of purpose (mission) and core values are the guiding principles of your behaviour. A leader’s deepest motive is always focused on ‘allowing his environment to grow’. This applies to both leaders and organisations. Leaders often lose sight of their deepest motive, or they are still searching for it.

Leaders and organisations which base their actions on Authentic leadership create a higher sense of commitment and pride among employees and are demonstrably more successful in reaching their goals.

What is Authentic leadership not?

Our theory is not some vague ‘just be yourself and everything will be OK’ theory. That would mean tolerating anti-social, selfish and manipulative behaviour because ‘that is also authentic’.

Authentic leadership also does not mean ‘act upon every spontaneous impulse that comes to mind’. Authentic does not always mean spontaneous. Sometimes authentic behaviour is very carefully thought out and extremely well considered. Basing your actions on your mission is not always simple. It requires courage and perseverance.

The 7 layers

The 7 layered model of Authentic leadership is developed by Bas Blekkingh. It is a field-tested model which assumes that all human beings are made up of 7 layers. The outermost layer is the environmental layer, the second layer is the behavioural layer and the third layer is the skills layer. These are followed by the norms and ego layers. The deepest layers are the values and authenticity layers.

Each layer has its own dynamic

The trick is to increase your effectiveness and capacity for resolving problems by dealing with the problem at the correct layer. This allows you to identify and resolve problems easily. Not all problems occur in the same layer and sometimes you have to look for them in a deeper layer.

Discover and live your mission

By reaching inwards through those 7 layers, you will eventually find your core, your ‘authenticity’. What are your deepest motives? What mission lies behind these layers? Once you have found your purpose or mission, you will be able to work back towards the outside. Your mission will then guide your behaviour. You will see your problems in a different light. Click on ‘Discover your mission’ to get started now.

Why use a 7-layer model?

It seems that leaders find it very complicated to find the correct abstraction level to resolve issues. This is too time consuming and wastes a lot of energy. We help leaders to become more successful and self-fulfilled by providing them with support so they can resolve their problems more quickly and effectively.

It also seems that during the course of their career, leaders tend to lose touch with their authenticity. Without realising it, their ego takes control of it. That is not a serious problem, but in the long term there are negative consequences, such as a drop in your level of satisfaction. At their core, people are creative beings. What a leader wants to create is called a ‘Mission’. Everyone has a mission, sometimes even multiple missions. The quest for living according to this mission again, not only brings more success, but it also gives an enormous feeling of happiness and commitment to your environment.


Egos are successful survival mechanisms which you developed in your early years. Some egos can make you stronger. They can help you to achieve your mission. However, if your egos get the better of you, they can turn against you. They may even lead to a ‘negative self-fulfilling prophecy’. Click here to go to Free Tools where you can download the Ego Scan (light version).

Image of the different types of Egos
Do you recognize yourself? Click on the image.

Although it is the most natural thing in the world to have an ego, the word “ego” often has negative connotations. You may regard an ego as one of your (sub)personalities. You actually have several egos. Your egos aim to position themselves in a certain way in relation to others. They want to carry a certain label. You want others to think something of you and if that happens, it will feel right, often even good. Ultimately, this contributes to your sense of security. “If I adopt such and such attitude, things are bound to turn out OK.” The past has proven that. Your egos are usually at work without you realising it – which is a pity.

Together to a higher level

Exaggerated egos are a bit more difficult. Unfortunately, you use these as well, although you do not often recognise them in yourself. Other people do, however, because you start to bother them. You do not achieve what you want to achieve. This results in a negative self-fulfilling prophecy, jeopardising your position in the group. Having gained insight into each other’s ego, your team will be able to advance to a higher level by making use of the (combined) strengths and confronting others whose egos get the better of them. Are you aware of your egos?

Discover your mission

Your deepest drive is to create something meaningful, something you can be proud of. That is what we call your “Mission”. It is not something you must, but rather something you want to create, your purpose. Leaders are extremely effective and happy when they spend most of their time on this.

Everyone has a mission, perhaps even more than one. We are often not aware of it, or have become somewhat detached from it.

Live to it

Authentic leadership supports you in (re)discovering your mission, so that you can live it. Using our Mission Statement form, you can take the first step towards discovering your personal mission. Click here to try it out immediately.