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The Lived Experiences of Authentic Leaders: A Phenomenological Study Exploring What Defining Experiences Informed Their Development into Authentic Leaders Open Access

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Authentic Leadership is an emerging leadership category that is gaining much interest because of the demand for more authentic leaders. Recurring corporate and government malfeasance and the morally-complex environments of organizations are imposing more significant demands on organizational actors. Authentic leaders attain greater performance from their followers and is considered a leadership multiplier that produces a virtuous cycle of performance and learning for leaders, followers, and organizations. The experiences of authentic leaders as yet to be uncovered and this phenomenological study addresses the research question of: How do experiences inform authentic leadership across the four dimensions of the authentic leadership multi-dimensional construct of: self-awareness, balanced processing, relational transparency and internalized moral / ethical perspective.A purposeful sample of 12 leaders from across 5 U.S. business sectors were interviewed over a 3-month period. The study offers the following broad themes. (1) experiences are the primary source of learning that informs authentic leadership development, (2) feedback is essential in authentic leadership development, (3) authentic leadership development requires reliance on interactions with others and fostering potential in others, (4) a value system serves as a guidepost over the adult life of an authentic leader, (5) authentic leaders have a solicitous orientation, (6) authentic leaders have a high level of emotional and psychological functioning, and (7) experiences with poor and good leaders was instrumental in informing the participants' leadership style.

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