ATHENA Leadership Virtue: The Authentic Self

The York County Economic Alliance recently launched their new Professional Women's Alliance (PWA) to share resources that celebrate, support, promote, and advance the success of women in business. The PWA's first event was a luncheon featuring past ATHENA recipients who spoke about the individual virtues that make up the ATHENA Leadership Model. They have graciously agreed to share their perspectives here, as well.

By: Jean Treuthart

Authentic. It’s a deep word. It’s not easy to define. We could say that’s it’s “being real,” but what does that really mean?

Here’s what I’ve come up with. For me, being authentic happens when my personality and my talents come into alignment with my life’s purpose.

I told you this was deep stuff.

Authenticity isn’t something you have or you don’t have. It has to be developed, cultivated even, with purpose…over time

Authenticity is about being real. It’s about showing up ready to fully engage with what the circumstance presents to you. It’s balancing the need to fit in with the joy of being your perfectly imperfect self.

Being authentic is work. Why? Because life can be hard. It’s beautiful and it’s brutal. And in the middle of that duality, you’re just trying to be you. For most of us, this takes effort.

Being your authentic self is necessary. Why? Because if you try to be less than you are or deny who you are, you can end up experiencing sadness, anger, anxiety, numbness, and depression. And don’t we have a lot of that in our society these days? Dis-ease is what happens when we don’t live our truth.

Let me give you a minor example of what it feels like to give up a part of yourself.  Perhaps you can relate.

I remember dating some guy and pretending to like country music because he did. There’s nothing wrong with country music. It’s not my thing. 

Don’t tell me you’ve never done something like that—pretended to like soccer or India Pale Ale or his obnoxious friend. Why did I do that? Because I didn’t trust he would like who I really was. 

Sometimes it takes people a decade to figure out what they might have known in a couple of dates if they’d just been authentic and not performing and pretending.

Cultivating authenticity is all about choices. How far from your true self can you flex? How often are you willing to flex? What are you willing to give up to move closer to your true self?

Authentic leadership is inviting openness among the people with whom you work. It’s the willingness to admit you made a mistake. It’s letting people see your vulnerabilities AND your strengths. It’s about cultivating growth in yourself and encouraging it in others in the quest to become better people. It’s about creating values together that support your organization’s mission. 

Being your authentic self is a combination of strength and struggle that we engage in every single day. Being authentic can take you to some tough places. Peace doesn’t mean you don’t have challenges. It means you don’t get pulled too far off center by them. You’re resilient. You snap back to who you really are. 

Being authentic is necessary. Why? Because if you tap into your essence, you will create and experience joy, purpose, clarity, love, belonging, stillness. Couldn’t we use a lot more of these in our world these days?


Jean Treuthart brings over 30 years of experience in organizational leadership, revenue building, fundraising, and advocacy to her role as the CEO of YWCA York. She is a frequent community speaker on social and economic justice topics related to the fields of women’s leadership role and education. From 2003 to 2014, Jean championed access and opportunity to education at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) in the position of Campus Vice President of the York Campus. Under her leadership, the campus was the fastest growing in the college’s history with enrollment reaching just over 3,000 students. In 2015, she received the ATHENA International Leadership award for her commitment to mentoring young women.


The ATHENA Leadership Award® was inspired by the goddess of Greek mythology known for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment - qualities embodied in the ATHENA Leadership Model®. The ATHENA Leadership Award® is presented to a woman - or man - who is honored for professional excellence, community service, and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills. Nominations for the York County Economic Alliance ATHENA Award are being accepted until November 18, 2016.