Authentic Leadership in Nursing

Submitted by Hallie Garrett, BSN

Tags: Authentic leadership leadership leadership in nursing nursing leadership

Authentic Leadership in Nursing

Share Article:

Authentic leadership, I choose this topic because it is what I aspire to be. I was treading on serious unfamiliar territory. I have never ventured upon this characteristic, but none the less; I want to be an authentic leader. I have been in the nursing world for over 20 years and have never met this strange and unfamiliar character called the quintessential “authentic leader”. I have worked with many different mangers in my career. I have noticed a common thread with each one .Leaders that were daily, dealing with emotional upheavals trying to balance their career and families. The stress from this unhappy medium; lead to mood swings and attitudes when they had a bad day. I remember as a staff nurse hiding behind curtains in my patient’s rooms to avoid the emotional outburst of my managers. This role of a leader all seemed frightening to me. I often wonder how this person is making a difference in patient care with such high levels of stress. I never had a good role model of a leader. But as I read the literature about authentic nursing leadership my spirit leaped and I could truly identify with the characteristics of this type of leader. This type of leader ventures out and takes risks and has a goal to exceed the standards of care; and is a trailblazer in the field of nursing. Authentic nursing leadership is multifaceted.

Authentic leaders contribute to the growth and development of a healthier work environment. Authentic leadership is described as the root component of effective leadership required to build trust and a healthier work environments that promote patient safety and excellence in care and recruit and retain staff (Wong, Laschinger & Cummings, 2010). Authenticity in nurse managers is the most important quality of a successful leader. There are four foundational frameworks of authentic leadership: balanced information processing, authentic behavior, relational transparency and self-awareness (Wong, Laschinger & Cummings, 2010).

Balanced processing is the willingness to objectively analyze data and evaluate other opinions before making a decision. They request from followers adequate input and perspectives, both positive and negative prior to making a decision. Authentic leaders need to aware of their own perspectives and open to other persons perspectives.

Authentic leaders must model authentic behaviors, they are genuine, freely expressing feelings and motives, are driven by the desire to make a difference, and are guided by values transcending self-interest (Murphy, 2012).They come to understand their personal convictions and value systems and the purpose of their leadership role. An authentic leader sets and role models a high standard of ethical and moral conduct (Wong & Laschinger, 2012).

Relational transparency encompasses presenting one’s authentic self through openly sharing information and feelings as appropriate for situations; open and honest communication (Wong, Laschinger & Cummings, 2010).This requires a level of openness and truthfulness, so that other will be open and honest with you. This type of openness encourages others to be forthcoming with their own ideas, challenges and perspectives.

Self-awareness can be defined as being aware of one’s own values and beliefs. The authentic leader who exercises this character is aware of their; own strengths and weaknesses. They are aware of how their strength and weakness can affect others; and they convey that in their actions. Self-awareness is a continuous journey of learning about you. It is a daily process of reflection and growing from within ourselves. Managers who are self-aware and have insight into their core values, are unafraid to portray them openly and demonstrate how their ethical standards under pin there decision they make communicate integrity and transparency (Wong & Laschinger, 2012).

In authentic leadership theory, leaders who maintain high levels of these four elements garner the trust and respect of followers by acting consistent with their values, ethical standards and personal convictions while at the same time facilitating an open and collaborative environment with others (Wong, Laschinger & Cummings 2010). These qualities in a leader can improve care quality and workplace conditions. Empowering the followers within the workplace facilitates a quality work environment.

Authentic leaders also facilitate higher quality relationships leading to active engagement of employees in the workplace activities, which result greater job satisfaction and higher productivity and performance (Wong & Laschinger, 2012). Authentic leader’s model and support follower self-determination in the work place. Self-determination is one’s autonomy to perform his work in a way that he chooses. This kind of leadership style helps foster follower motivation and self-determination by facilitating conditions that allow for two way communication, enabling coaching and constructive feedback; as well as acknowledging the followers perspective and interest. This type of behavior leads to workplace empowerment.


  1. Murphy, G.L. (2012). Becoming and Remaining an Authentic leader. The Journal of Nursing Administration, 42 (11), 507-512.
  2. Wong, A.C., & Laschinger, H. (2012).Authentic leadership, and job satisfaction: the mediating the mediating role of empowerment. Journal of Advanced Nursing (9), 947-959.
  3. Wong, A.C., Laschinger, H, &Cummings, G.G. (2010). Authentic leadership and nurse voice behavior and perceptions of quality care. Journal of Nursing Management (18), 889-900.