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How Authentic Leadership Transforms K-12 Schools

Authentic leadership has become increasingly important in the literature, attracting the attention of many scholars in the last decade. This study adopted an employee-centered perspective to guide its examination of the relationship between authentic leadership and individual performance and investigation of the sequential mediation of employees’ affective commitment and individual creativity.

What is Authentic Leadership?

Authentic Leadership is a leadership style that is conceptually new in education (Bird, Wang, Watson, & Murray, 2012), which includes ethical values and behaviors (Yukl, Mahsud, Hassan, Prussia, & Prussia, 2013). As a new construct, this authentic leadership is still in development stage, and it is expected that the emergence of various views and perspectives on this leadership are still in progress (Klenke, 2007). Research by Arif Hassan and Forbes Ahmed (2011) also support authentic leadership theory and mentioned that the real leader establishes a reliable relationship with his staff, and his subordinates are happy to work in such organizations.

Authentic Leadership and Individual Performance

Authentic leaders’ behavior is strongly rooted in beliefs, values, and moral principles that stimulate workers’ performance (Alshammari et al., 2015). According to Levy (2020), the relationship between authentic leaders’ ethical behavior and employees’ improved performance can be understood as that the latter feel authorized to act more freely within the parameters of their jobs and that this self-sufficiency influences performance.

1. Authentic Leadership, Affective Commitment, and Individual Performance

Authentic leadership has been shown to be an important antecedent of affective commitment (Avolio et al., 2004; Leroy et al., 2012; Rego et al., 2013; Gatling et al., 2016; Semedo et al., 2016, 2019; Delić et al., 2017; Milić et al., 2017; Ribeiro et al., 2020). According to Braun et al. (2013), employees’ identification with and emotional attachment to their leaders increase these followers’ affective commitment to their organization.

2. Authentic Leadership, Individual Creativity, and Individual Performance

Authentic leaders’ actions are congruent with their words, values, and beliefs, thereby contributing to open, truthful relationships with their followers and promoting work environments in which employees can exchange ideas and share knowledge with each other (Khan et al., 2019). In this positive environment, creativity is fostered and encouraged (Ilies et al., 2005; Rego et al., 2013; Khan et al., 2019). Authentic leadership also stimulates employees’ positive emotions, thereby increasing their creativity (Gavin and Mason, 2004). More specifically, the constructive feedback that characterizes authentic leaders has been shown to enhance creative behavior (Christensen-Salem et al., 2018).

3. Authentic Leadership, Affective Commitment, Individual Creativity, and Individual Performance

This study proposed that authentic leadership raises employees’ level of performance by promoting their affective commitment and thus increasing their creativity. Authentic leaders can enhance respect, dignity, integrity, and trust among followers (Bamford et al., 2013), and workers reciprocate by showing more desired behaviors and emotional attachment. When employees’ emotional relationship to their organization is strengthened (Meyer and Allen, 1991), these individuals are more likely to be motivated to make significant contributions to their organization, including presenting new and creative ideas to solve organizational problems (Semedo et al., 2018). Therefore, employees’ affective commitment positively influences their creativity.


Authentic leaders are perceived by others as people who have self-awareness, high moral character, and optimistic. It overlaps with contemporary leadership perspectives like charismatic leadership, servant leadership, transformational, and spiritual leadership. To add, the construct is gradually attaining its own legitimacy through theory and empirical research. Authentic leaders do not pursue to make their followers leaders but they act as role models. They can have similar characteristics as transformational leaders but they do not combine inauthentic and authentic behaviors as most pseudo-transformational leaders act. Authentic leaders combine charismatic, transformational, spiritual, servant, among other positive leadership constructs. They influence followers from an ethical/value perspective additionally they invigorate their followers or supporters by creating personal meaning as well as positive construction of reality mostly for themselves and their supporters.


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