Authenticity has become a central concept in leadership studies, but the question of how followers assess the authenticity of their political leaders has not been addressed. With few exceptions, the literature on authenticity and leadership has focused on normative arguments rather than empirical study, and on the leader rather than on his or her followers. Normative models of leadership advise leaders to “be authentic.” Yet leadership is a social process. As leaders struggle to be authentic, followers make decisions about the degree to which they believe their leaders are authentic. In this study we develop the scholarship on authenticity and leadership by introducing and applying the concept of leader authenticity markers. These are features and actions that others use to determine the degree to which they believe a leader is authentic or inauthentic. We present findings from an exploratory study of authenticity markers of African-American political leaders. Political leadership of ethnic minority groups is a particularly important realm in which to study leader authenticity and leader authenticity markers. We report and discuss the seven authenticity markers identified in the research and five themes about authenticity markers. The implications of these findings for leadership studies and practice are discussed, as are directions for future research.


Pittinsky, Todd L., and Christopher Jordan Tyson. "Leader Authenticity Markers: Findings from a Study of African-American Political Leaders." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP04-048, November 2004.