Jesus on Leading: Authenticity

Recently I wrote loosely about Authentic Leadership, or Taking our Cues on Leading from Jesus.  In it I mentioned I would soon begin to write about some the heart qualities of leadership that Jesus exhibited and exhorted us to. It seems appropriate that one of the most important qualities of an authentic leader is Authenticity.


What does it mean for a leader to be “authentic”? Are we real, genuine, or are we knock offs?

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “draw near to God with a sincere heart…”

Sincere is another synonym for authentic.  It comes from Latin, sin cere, which means “without wax.”

In Roman times there was a practice of making knock off pottery.  The good stuff was made fully from good clay.  But the cracks and flaws in less than perfect pieces could be fixed by filling those fissures in with wax.  When the piece was painted, you couldn’t tell there were defects.  Until you exposed it to heat and the wax melted.

You wanted to make sure the pottery you purchased was genuine, authentic, sin cere.

Jesus warns us through His words about the leaders of the day:  “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1)

So am I...sincere, genuine, authentic, or am I insincere, fake, a hypocrite.

The psalmist invites God to “search me, know me, reveal any offensive (unauthentic?) ways in me.” (Psalm 139) 

When I do that, God is kind to tell me how much He loves me, how pleased with me He is.

Then He is also kind—and gracious—to point out some areas where there is a little wax, where I am not so real as I like to think.  Where there is danger—for me–of being a knock off leader.  Here are three:


I pray.  Probably more than the average Christian.  When people ask for prayer, I usually do it right then. I teach on prayer.  I lead a ministry of prayer.  I have a profound saying:  “The work of God is done on our knees.  Then we go find out what happened.”

So I should feel pretty good about my authentic life of prayer.  But I know the truth.I know I don’t pray as much as people think I do, or as much as I wish I did.

I too often move ahead in my own power in some activity, neglecting to give it to the Lord and request His anointing.

I’m so busy that I often cut short my time with God.

And I certainly don’t experience the effectiveness of answered prayer that I would love to see.


I love to give.  Whether it is money, or gifts, or connections or ideas or opportunities—I get immeasurable joy from giving.

Then I read Jesus’ commendation of the widow giving her two coins—her all—and I know I have never given till it really hurts.

I have given when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.  I have given in secret and openly.But I have never given at such great sacrifice that I felt at risk.


My bio quotes others as saying: “Judy is known for her realness…”

When I speak, I tell real, vulnerable stories from my life. When I write I include the good times and the challenging times.  I am honest about strengths and weaknesses, successes and struggles.  I truly desire to lift up those I lead and see them grow and succeed.  I would rather lead from influence than from position.

Mostly I am authentic—for all of those.  But I know my heart.  I know the stories I won’t tell, the secrets I will keep.  Which of course is often appropriate.  Not everything should be told.

But it is hard, even in sharing with vulnerability, not to give the appearance of greater strength, spirituality, success than is really true.  Taking credit that belongs to one of my team members is often tempting. And sometimes it’s easier to “pull rank” than help people come to good conclusions themselves.

I’m not putting myself down here.  I’m not filled with guilt at my imperfections and failures.  I am just seeking to tell the truth to myself—that there are areas of my life with a little wax, where I am not always authentic–and to keep growing into a true follower of Jesus.

What about you:  Real or knock off?  Is the true you revealed as you lead?

c2013 Judy Douglass

Related posts:

Jesus on Leading: Submission in Leadership by Kristy Robinson

Jesus on the Heart of a Leader