Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Fast-Tracking Authentic Leadership Development by Means of a Programme

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Fast-Tracking Authentic Leadership Development by Means of a Programme

Article excerpt


Key focus

Good leaders navigate through all weather; profound leadership occurs during a storm. (Meyer, 2007, p. 4)

The above notion illustrates the potential value of authentic leadership (AL), which could be regarded as the highest form of leadership effectiveness (Eigel & Kuhnert, 2005). To combine high performance with high integrity and to re-instate trust in the free enterprise system requires leaders who know who they are and who produce consistent and predictable leadership behaviour as such leaders foster higher levels of integrity, trust and positive affective responses among followers (Chan, Hannah & Gardner, 2005; Walumbwa, Avolio, Gardner & Peterson, 2008). The challenge is that the metric of time required for developing such leadership is typically very long, as it takes life and leadership episodes over time for the characteristics of AL to emerge (Chan, 2005). There is a need for a leadership programme that could possibly fast-track the development of leadership authenticity (Wulffers, 2014).

Background to the study

The latest rash of corporate scandals over the last decade has awakened collective consciousness to the fact that self-interest, unchecked by moral reasoning and obligation, can result in destructive greed. This greed destroys not only the lives of those executives who are driven by it to ethical compromise but also ultimately impacts on all stakeholders, as the outcomes trickle down the corporate hierarchies, spilling over into communities and crashing into families (Fry & Whittington, 2005, p. 184).

True leadership is always more difficult to maintain in challenging times, and the unique stressors facing organisations throughout the world today call for a renewed attention to what constitutes true and positive leadership (Walumbwa et al., 2008). Organisations are focusing on finding leadership that will restore confidence, hope and optimism, while displaying resiliency that allows appropriate responses to potentially catastrophic events. There is a need for leaders who lead with purpose, values and integrity (George, 2003; Metcalf & Benn, 2013). What organisations require is a way of leading that is based on character and substance rather than style of leadership and integrity rather than image or position (George & Sims, 2007).

Trends from research literature

While there are ample definitions available in literature on AL and how AL impacts on inter-relational trust, individual and team leadership, and organisational effectiveness, there is less information available on how it can be developed. Typically, it takes a long time to develop the characteristics of leadership authenticity, requiring life and leadership episodes that provide development opportunities. This begs the question whether companies can wait that long to have true leaders at the helm (Wulffers, 2014). Unless a way can be found to deliberately develop such leadership within a reasonable time span, organisations and even governments will head the news in stories of corruption and achieving wealth at the expense of their citizens (Karpoff, 2010).

To date, insufficient research has been done on how the development of AL can be fast-tracked (Avolio, 2010; Wulffers, 2014). Avolio and Gardner (2005) highlighted the complexity of AL development theory and stated that they were not yet able to view AL development in the format of a programme, unless it were to be broadly labelled 'life's program' (Avolio & Gardner, 2005, p. 322), meaning that the development had to emanate from the lessons offered by life.

Research purpose and objectives

While much has been written about the need for a better quality of leadership (Fry & Whittington, 2005; George, Sims, Mclean & Mayer, 2007), very little research is available on how this type of leadership can be developed. Reichard and Avolio (2005) conducted a study on the status of leadership intervention research, pointing out that very little research has been done on AL programmes. …

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