What it Means to Be an Authentic Leader by Robert Ricciardelli

What it Means to Be an Authentic Leader by Robert Ricciardelli August 18, 2011

The hierarchical controls of titled, and entitled leaders of various systems have marginalized people throughout history. There are authorities, assignments, and gifts that God gives to serve others, but His Kingdom is never self-serving and always beckoning its citizens to lay down their lives for others. Ambassadors for God are empowered to lead through the foundation of God’s love and strength, filtered by humility. —Robert Ricciardelli

Many people have written on what it means to be a leader. Almost everyone identifies influence as the primary characteristic for leaders. A person can have a position of power, a title, influence, and not be an authentic leader. People without power or position lead all the time with impact and influence. Authentic leadership at some level, in the image of God through his Spirit, is within all of us. Authentic leadership is a completely different category than hierarchical leadership that often demands conformity. Most leadership systems can certainly be influential, and yet authentic leadership brings far more to the world than just influence.

I engage in many conversations regarding the leaders of today. The generation in which we live has been unprecedentedly exposed to deception in government and top leaders of many corporate entities, including churches. Many common questions occur in the discussions of leaders such as: Where are the servant leaders of today? Why are there are so many leaders that are using their positions, doctrines, and influence, in ways that are clearly self-serving? Where can we find leaders today that have a desire to encourage and promote others more than themselves? Why is there so much “Look at my what, while you watch me strut” in the leaders of today?

People are starving for authentic leadership in all contexts of life.  They are exhausted with the pretentious, the self-serving, and all the embellishment and hype that goes with it. It seems like the more religious minded someone is, the more susceptible they are in being captivated by these types of leaders. At the same time, unbelievers outside of these establishments seem to have better discernment regarding the character and false agenda’s of these misaligned leaders, as evidenced by the fact that these leaders have little influence or relevance outside their four walls of religion.

A leader may have a gift, a calling, and even good intentions, yet be gripped by deceptive and destructive behaviors. The Bible teaches that fathers are to leave an inheritance for their sons and yet amazingly enough, there is still a huge unscriptural religious emphasis on spiritual children being compelled to give in order for them to be spiritually fathered. These leaders will have no problem receiving your finances and repentance, but will receive little else from you or anyone else regarding the truth or integrity that they may lack.

Leaders, who have a tough time being humble, vulnerable, and authentic, typically lead through insecurities that have been with them since childhood. They were never esteemed, passed over often, and sometimes disregarded altogether. When significance or power in leadership is given to them, they will protect it through control and manipulation. Authentic leadership will arise while the haughty will continue to be humbled. ~R.R.

Leaders of Authentic Significance and Purpose 

The time is ripe for all of us to redefine leadership today and for our future. The hierarchical and militant models of leadership that seemed to work well in the past in some contexts will not get the best out of people today. People are too well informed to adhere to a set of rules, or to simply to follow a power charged charismatic leader. They want to be inspired by a greater purpose. They know that they have a God ordained destiny to fulfill, and that life is about giving and not taking. They want to fully live and at the end of their days know that they will hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Authenticity is in being uniquely yourself, optimally operating in the design for which you have been created. Authentic leaders know who they are, and they do not feel the need to impress or please others. They live to please God in all of His love, mercy, and justice for mankind. They not only inspire those around them, but they bring people together around a shared purpose and a common set of values. They are high-level motivators for common vision and common good for everyone involved.

In doing so they set a new standard in a time when a new standard of leadership is desperately needed.

Authentic Leadership Distinctions 


If the Kingdom of God is anything and it is everything it is supernaturally relational” ~ David VanCronkhite 

Authentic leadership must begin with relationship first and foremost with God. Without relationship and intimacy with God, Love has no place to work through a leader, and absolute values become diluted.  Through intimacy with God, a leader can be in alignment with His heart and divine absolutes in serving others.  This can further be observed in the relationship a leader has with family, friends, co-workers, and those from within the community. The ability to develop enduring relationships is an essential mark of authentic leaders. Today, people demand personal relationships with their leaders before they’ll give themselves fully to their vision.


Authentic leaders have vision that is highly inclusive, and vision that finds common ground and synchronicity with the vision of others. These leaders know that they need much more than vision, and that they need continuous wisdom and discernment from God to lead with His insight. They are able to look at complex situations, gain clarity, and determine a course of action. In the Bible, “[The] men of Issachar … understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). They need momentary wisdom and understanding, requiring a constant measure of godly insight, and they are willing to realign rigorously at the commands of God.


They do not just tell, they do, and they often go first. They don’t sit on the sidelines while asking others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves. They are discerning and their motivation is centered on the values of the Word, and working side by side with the Fruits of the Spirit. They lead themselves well, see what needs to be done for the kingdom, and then go do it.  


Authentic leaders are influential and people are able to embrace and receive from their life’s message. They are able to engage others in transitional thought while releasing and mobilizing them into God’s purposes. They have the ability to create a divine ripple effect for good, and inspire people towards God’s best.   


Authentic leaders make a difference, as they are ambassadors for Kingdom transition and change. The world is changed because of their leadership. They are able to create real and lasting change through the strategies and power of the transformational presence of God. As Presence carriers they impact every atmosphere and every context they engage themselves in. People will not look back at a leader’s success based on what it did for the leader personally, but they will look at the success based on what that leader did for others. Their impact becomes fruit that remains for generations to come.


Authentic leaders lead with integrity. They lead lives that are in harmony with God’s values and principals. Many leaders can carry other qualities of leadership and yet not exhibit Integrity. These leaders present themselves fully integrated in the things of God in every context of life. They are not dualistic and maintain an internal and external consistency with the image and nature of God.


Authentic leaders do not believe their own press. They realize that all the insight, influence, and impact they have comes from God and is for the purposes of God. They fight hard against the temptation of power and anything that is self-serving or coming against the will and purposes of God. Vulnerability is a real strength for them, and they extend amazing grace because they know the grace they have received.


Authentic Leaders are servants. They flourish by seeing others flourish. The promotion and advancement of others is a bigger thrill for them, than anything they could gain for themselves. They lead with love, are trustworthy, and people feel safe in sharing their hearts with them. They empower others to be a part of the making history in bringing the Kingdom of God to earth, letting them know that they are fully established in God alone.

Choosing Leaders Wisely 

It is difficult to find gentleness in a world enthralled by power, prestige, and productivity, and it is of no consequence when people get disregarded and hurt on the ladder of success. Gentleness presents the evidence of the presence of God within us. Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of others, and knows that true growth requires nurture and not force. Let us lead with the gentleness of Spirit. ~ R.R.

Authentic leaders know that success comes through Spirit led self-discipline and personal leadership. The challenges of leadership are so great these days that many ask whether it’s worth taking on a leadership role. Authentic leaders say “yes” to the challenge, and believe that no individual achievement can equal the pleasure of leading people toward the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  These leaders realize no greater satisfaction than to see people successfully cross the finish line of their journey, and that they were somehow able to make a significant contribution to the lives of the people they served.

If there ever were a time for a new breed of leaders to arise, this would be the time.  The litany of problems is all too familiar and it is not that we lack leaders as much as in that we lack in properly defining and demanding true authentic leadership. Wrong definitions and values have created the opportunities for the wrong people to attain leadership roles. It is no wonder why we have problems when we relinquish our responsibility in selecting godly leaders, or succumb to choosing the charismatically popular choice. Lord may you guide us into all truth, and may you continue to raise up leaders that choose your Kingdom, your righteousness, and your nature above all else.

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