Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Look at Authenticity

Written by: on September 5, 2019

The article “Authentic Leadership Theory: Enhancements from 1 Peter 5:1-5” caught my attention, given the emphasis on authenticity and vulnerability in culture these days. Popular author and researcher Brene Brown and others have aided this interest certainly. Yet it seems like we still have a complicated relationship with authenticity in the Church. I know I still do. The idea of “just be yourself” sounds good but we must wrestle with what that means as Christian leaders.

I have thought of authenticity the last several years as congruency. Does what I project on the outside, external part of my life and interactions match what is on the inside, hidden places of my life? The emphasis earlier in my life was definitely skewed to the external – behavior modification and trying to do the right thing by those I felt were watching. But the last thirteen or so years have been a subtle yet real transposition. Is what is true about me at the beliefs, soul, and heart level flow out to inform my behaviors, interactions with others and public side of my life?

This congruency work has definitely changed the way I have engaged with others. I think often of something I heard Pastor Craig Groeschel say:

We may impress people with our strengths, but we connect with people through our weaknesses.[1]

We admire others for their victories, gifts and strengths but we connect with each other over our failures and weaknesses. I am determined to push against the temptation to be admired or impressive, the experience of which is much more palpable to my flesh. I want to connect with others. I want the honest account of my life and my struggles to give them courage.

I sat at a table recently with a handful of well-known female Christian leaders, several of whom were over the age of 50. The youngest at the table has a large ministry platform built on her story of abuse and recovery. Women in their twenties are drawn to her; her social media engagement numbers prove it, at least in some respects. She said that what these younger women want is honesty and transparency from those that are ahead; they want authenticity. It struck a nerve.

The older, more seasoned women began to share their concerns. They wonder if the millennials and those behind them have taken this too far. They cautioned that there can be too much a good thing that ends up not serving people well. I listened intently and found myself, as usual, somewhere in the middle, both in age and preference. Heretofore I had not considered cautious transparency. I, too, want more authenticity from those ahead of me. I need to know you struggle still – not just twenty years ago or prior to conversion. And I, too, want us to guard against our culture’s obsession with self and tendency to over-share inappropriately.

Holmquist’s work helps with this tension. While Holmquist cites several studies on Authentic Leadership Theory (ALT), he offers the Gardner, Avolio, Luthans, and Walumbwa study that formalizes the definition of ALT with the following characteristics: (a) self-awareness, (b) relational transparency, (c) balanced processing, and (d) internalized moral perspective.[2]

But he posits that Peter’s instruction to church leaders in 1 Peter 5 enhance the secular understanding of ALT. He suggests the centering of God in a leader’s life would deepen their humility and increase congruency, which would significantly increase authenticity. He states that “this leader would acutely feel and hold deeply to an accountability to an authority outside of and higher than self, which would build a stronger moral core and foster a deeper humility.”[3]

We should keep the basics of ALT alive but never forsake the centrality of Jesus in our leadership. It will take more than just “being real” or occasional transparency to lead well for the long haul. It will take a lifetime of intentional crucicentrism: a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross[4].

The work of Christ on the cross remaining central to our lives will guard against an addiction to become a celebrity, to self-promote and to subtly make our ministry about us. The cross brings us back to Jesus and what He has done for us – lifting us higher than self. It is here, too, that we see our deep, intrinsic worth and value. That we are the beloved of the Father secures us and frees us up to be our true, authentic selves.

Surely there is safety in crucicentrism for every generation.


[1]I heard him say this at a conference years ago but his podcast and resources are here: https://www.life.church/leadershippodcast/

[2]Gardner, W. L., Avolio,B. J., Luthans, F., May, D. R. & Walumbwa, F. “‘Can You See the Real Me?’ A Self-based Model of Authentic Leader and Follower Development.” in The Leadership Quarterly, 16(3), 2005, 343-372.

[3]Holmquist, Daniel B., “Authentic Leadership Theory: Enhancements from 1 Peter 5:1-5” in Theology of Leadership Journal ed. Russel Huizing, Volume 1, (Issue 1), 2018, 95.

[4]Bebbington, D. W., Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, rev. ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 1989), 15-6.


About the Author

Andrea Lathrop

I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, mom and student. I live in West Palm Beach, Florida and I have been an executive pastor for the last 8+ years. I drink more coffee than I probably should every day.

7 responses to “A Look at Authenticity”

  1. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Very good reflection on the article, Andrea. The issue of identity is of more importance than Christian leaders understand. Who are we? who are we to others, who are we to ourselves? Who are we to God? You mention a women having a platform around historic abuse, and I have met many in similar circumstances, male and female. What has been interesting is how the abuse story has not only become a platform for purpose, but also their identity. Who are they going to become when the platform is retired? Pastors, teachers, leaders: where does our identity find it’s source apart from our calling or tasks. Who are we when the ordinary kicks in? I wonder if that’s not the authentic person that needs discovery. I went to see Rocket Man a few weeks back and there was a side character who made a throw aways comment to Elton John in his early years, “You need to kill of who you were born be in order to become who you want to be”. That got me thinking – who has God made me to be? and am I ok with that? Can I comfortably grow into that authentic and unfolding person? That person has little to do with my parentage or my career. Thanks for the thoughts and perspective.

    • Andrea Lathrop says:

      Digby – thank you for such a beautiful, authentic 🙂 response. l think it’s the thing I love most about you – I think you hold the positions and titles you have appropriately. I think of it like they fit well – they aren’t too heavy and they don’t impede your posture. I find that to be too rare in my limited ministry experience. And I have found that seeing my identity as a daughter of God – and having all other roles flow from there – be much more sustainable and ‘fitting’. Much appreciation for your example.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    Great post A! I agree with some much in this post. Just a few weeks ago a very well known male Christian pastor “got real” and started posting very foul latent and graphic pics because someone bashed him and his family on social media. I was shocked at his actions but also the justification of “being real” and not fake anymore AND with how many people agreed with him. Do we all get mad and probably say things in situations that aren’t “godly” yes, but to put it in public and justify it is not the character of a biblical Christian.

    Saying all that, I do think we can be authentic without (sinning in his case) or allowing the struggle to have the light rather than Christ having the light. I share my testimony of faith a lot, but it has changed in the delivery over the years, from one that focuses and lifts up a heathen culture to one that lifts up the saving grace of Christ.

  3. Sean Dean says:

    Andrea, your definition of authenticity is worth its weight in gold. It stopped me in my tracks. Thanks for the work you’re doing. This is great.

  4. Karen says:

    This is so rich, Andrea! I love the idea of congruency! I think this is such a good distinction to make, because I wonder if those who “overshare” are sharing really anything vulnerable at all? I find that in my own experience, those that tend to overshare aren’t really posting anything or sharing anything of valuable substance. It’s not really vulnerable, and it still feels as though is posted from a place of doing what others thing I should do.

    This is where congruency comes in – and can act as such a good filter! Are the things I am sharing either personally or on social media congruent with who I am and who I believe God has made me to be? SO good! Such a simple, yet profound question.

  5. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Like others, thanks so much for your reflective thoughts. Thank you for sharing your perspectives and help all of us live authentic Christ-filled lives out of what Christ has and continues to do in each one of us. Thanks for your leadership perspectives and your passion to live a congruent life.

  6. Mary Mims says:

    Andrea, I love this post! I am not a fan of over-sharing and I do not feel that it is authentic at all, but sometimes can be attention grabbing. I think about the Apostle Paul and how he never really told us what the torn in the flesh was. Maybe everyone at that time knew, but maybe not. At any rate, it was not the focus of his story, but rather the sufficiency of Christ’s grace for his situation.

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