Adopting An Authentic Leaders Mindset

If each of us were asked to reflect on an impactful or influential leader in our lives, we are probably able to identify one or two. Unfortunately, it is far easier to identify those leaders that have had a negative impact or have had their own self-interest at heart. Recently, I have begun to dive deeply into the concept of ‘Authentic Leadership’ and it’s a really straightforward approach in helping leaders to become genuine, servant-hearted, and outward-focused human beings. It develops leaders that can look at and inspire those people around them because of their authenticity.

Working alongside a countless number of schools and organisations over the last 8 years, I truly believe that we have taken leadership and put it in a box and reserved it for people who wear a badge or have a title or for when I’m finally in charge… It’s time for us to unbox leadership and make it commonplace in everyday situations and we can do this through Authentic Leadership. This will allow us to encourage and grow a leadership mindset that helps us to think about what we can do on behalf of others.

When we approach leadership through the lens of the everyday ways, we influence (because we all influence in some capacity) and this gives us the ability to start building everyone’s wellbeing, leadership capacity, empathy, and skillsets no matter the position they find themselves in. Leadership doesn’t have to be a dirty word, in fact, it can be positive and empowering for self and others.

So, if it’s actually possible to grow leaders and develop a suite of wellbeing outcomes at the same time, then surely that is a model for success. I want to present a model of leadership that is accessible for all, can be embodied by your school or organisation, and will get greater outcomes due to the focus on others.


The word ‘Authentic’ comes from Greek and it means “to thine own self be true”. For us to discover the heart of outstanding leadership, we need to bring leading back to the roots of who we are and what we stand for as human beings. Ultimately, we are innately searching for leaders who show their true selves and whose motivations are genuinely for others.

This model that we, at Burn Bright, have developed is what we believe are the key elements of ‘Authentic Leadership’.

This model predicates that self-awareness is the foundation of leadership and is often thought of as the key to eudaemonic wellbeing. When leaders start with a foundation of self-awareness for who they are and know their strengths, the remaining stages come much easier.

When we think about great leaders through history, we think of the ones that have a compelling vision for the future. When we see that or experience that vision, we only see the tip of the iceberg of the leader’s journey. For a leader to have a clear vision for the future they must transcend the other levels, beginning with self-awareness. A vision for the future is of no use if the leader is not sure of who they are, how they lead, and what they stand for.

Whilst it is not feasible to explore every level of this model in this post (they could each be a post within themselves), I want to focus on the power of service for others. Albert Einstein once said that ‘only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile’. As leaders we don’t want to get caught in a complete focus on self, rather use a focus on self to establish exactly how we can use our strengths and values to help others grow and serve them in their development. A mindset of “others first” is not only helpful for others but also has been proven to increase our own levels of wellbeing.

What I believe is powerful about this model is that if you removed the word leadership from it and viewed it entirely through a wellbeing lens, it would be just as appropriate. The magnificent thing is that leadership and wellbeing don’t have to exist as separate dichotomies but exist symbiotically for the growth and development of all human beings.


Given that the foundation for Authentic Leadership is self-awareness, we must start there with practices such as mindfulness, deliberate coaching from others, taking some time for self-reflection, and focusing on our character strengths. A focus on these areas brings about emotional regulation and self-control that allows a clear leadership focus.

Above this focus, an Authentic Leader acts from their values and practices ‘unbiased processing’ whereby they deliberately attempt to take information and look at it objectively without bias or prejudice. Approaching decision-making with integrity and character not only has an impact on outcomes but can also impact those we are leading because of our consistency, clarity, and respect.

An Authentic Leader builds genuine relationships with those around them and not out of self-interest. They build from a mindset of serving others. A leader strives for openness and truthfulness in their relationships which develops trust and understanding. This unconditional trust is then reinforced by the leader’s genuine behaviour with others and within these relationships.

Authentic Leadership is a powerful mindset and framework to not only grow and develop future leaders but to analyse our own leadership now. If we want to get the best out of the people around us and make an impact in the world, this is a powerful way to do it. Ultimately Authentic Leaders are confident and hopeful for the future, they are resilient, gritty, and ethical and they make the growth of others their priority.

If you want to learn more about how we put our Authentic Leadership model into practice, take a look at our leadership camps for young people and how we build environments where young people step into their authentic leadership.



Continue your student’s leadership or wellbeing journey with our digital programs. Specifically designed to be flexibly implemented into your wellbeing or leadership programs, these courses can be completed at any time in any place, providing a self-paced option for students to explore in class or on their own. These modules include individual student logins, a teacher dashboard to track student progress and lesson plans with follow up face to face resources.

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Facilitator in Laptop Screen

I found Burn Bright in the midst of studying civil engineering at the University of Wollongong, just as I wanted a richer, deeper, more full experience of life.

Through Burn Bright, I have met many students and volunteers who are all seeking to find their place in the world. When we come together at NLC or SLC, no matter our age, we begin on the same page, of wanting to do good for ourselves, our community, and the world. And then we are thrown into a program that brings us closer to each other, our purpose, and how to bring forth this impact. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

Volunteering with Burn Bright stoked a fire in me – It helped me feel comfortable in myself and made me realise life isn’t just about work, study, or productivity, but our relationships and how we connect with others along the way.

I have learned skills in videography, worked for a top-tier corporation in marketing, and most recently published a book called “18 and lost? So were we” 

I have a passion for storytelling, bring loads of energy wherever I go, and am dedicated to helping young people move through the initiation of leaving high school and going into the ‘real world’. 

The best part for me is being able to stay connected to the latest generation growing through high school. To see them grow, expand and express more of themselves is like watching an artwork paint itself. It’s magic.

I am Simon Thurston, a Kiwi based in Perth. I work as an Instructional Designer and in my spare time I enjoy reading, running, and board games.

Since my initial connection to Burn Bright I have been onboard with their mission. Burn Bright’s focus on building the capabilities enables students of all ages to see how they can shape their world through connections with others and their own self discovery.

Seeing others grow, learn, and open up is what keeps me coming back, to help others realise their potential and how they can influence their future and their community is a definite highlight. It’s infectious, the atmosphere when they run a program or camp is welcoming, exciting, emotional, and rewarding all in one.



Hi, friends! I’m Kelsie, a psychologist from central QLD working in private practice. I got involved with Burn Bright officially in 2016, but the journey started long before that. I attended the National Leadership Camp (now hosted annually by Burn Bright) in 2009. It had such a profound impact on me that I returned as a mentor and volunteer. Those connections ultimately lead me to joining the Burn Bright team as an adult.

When I transitioned from facilitating with the Burn Bright team to working as a psychologist, I was so grateful for an incredible foundation of skills (particularly facilitation, communication and interpersonal skills) along with a strong grounding in positive psychology that Burn Bright integrates into their ethos.

I can’t imagine my life without volunteering for Burn Bright. I have met some of my dearest friends through the Burn Bright crew. I’ve found that volunteering for BB is rewarding, humbling, and often brings as much personal growth for the volunteer as it does for the young person.

From a professional perspective, I love that Burn Bright programs/camps support the adolescent individuation process by providing an exciting and supportive environment for teens to explore their own sense of self, personality, identify and values alongside other young people.

Imagine this POV: you’re back at school wanting to figure everything out and fit in – and you find
yourself in a room with amazing music that uplifts you and hooks you in. You meet the team of
dynamic, interesting, caring facilitators whose own friendships inspire you. Their facilitation skills bring about amazing light-bulb moments and lessons that light a fire inside you… It makes me want to feel that for myself again. The next best thing, for me, is volunteering for the team who passes that on to other young people.

My start at Burn Bright is one of the best cases of one door closing and another door opening. After losing my job at a local pub while on uni holidays, I started looking for new opportunities that were different and decided to volunteer. Searching for opportunities, I found working bees, community driving and nursing home visits, but the chance to become a National Leadership Camp intern stood out. Over nearly six months, I worked with the team to pull off Burn Bright’s first National Leadership Camp, and had an absolute blast in the process. After camp, I started working for Burn Bright while studying, doing anything and everything — data analysis, hiring strategy and even picking up furniture.

Finishing up working for Burn Bright in 2019, I am still actively involved with the Burn Bright volunteer community. I’ve found that the emphasis placed on investing in your relationships, understanding your values and making an impact allow you to be accepted for you. This has given me the tools needed to make the difficult decisions that life will inevitably throw at you. Besides all that, I’ve had a ton of fun and formed life-long friendships with people I may have never crossed paths with otherwise. “Get involved — you’ll change your life for the better and make life‑long friends in the process”.

I am a health science student from Perth wanting to get into the mental health realm of occupational therapy. In the meantime, I work as a barista and supervisor at a beachside café. In my spare time, I love to play netball, be around my friends and I have just gotten into crocheting. I went to Perth College where I was lucky enough to go to the first Perth College Leadership Camp in 2018 as a student and absolutely loved it. What really drew me in was the atmosphere that was created, the open conversations, and the lasting relationships formed.

Since then I have been a mentor for the Perth College Leadership Camp in 2019, 2020, and 2021 and had the opportunity to go to the National Leadership Camp in 2019. When Burn Bright comes to Perth I also love helping out at their programs as much as I can.

Volunteering for Burn Bright has given me so much that I could never have imagined. I have learned so much about myself and I have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities that I know I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t exposed to the amazing opportunities volunteering for Burn Bright has given me. Before being involved I would never have seen myself being a mentor, role model, and facilitator to students, but now I can confidently say that I am, and I have made an impact on others that I am proud of. I have also made so many meaningful connections to so many amazing people from all around Australia through Burn Bright. I get asked quite a bit why I keep coming back to my old school to volunteer and it’s simply because I was given this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Burn Bright programs and if I can help facilitate that experience to someone else then why wouldn’t I?

I was born in Perth and moved to Sydney in my early 20’s to continue work as a youth worker and surfboard maker. This was followed by 30 years working in IT as a computer programmer.

Following retirement in 2016 I searched for an organisation that was aligned with my values of servant leadership and service, especially in the youth space. This search led to Burn Bright where I am now volunteering one day a week and mentoring at the National Leadership Camp. Volunteering with Burn Bright gives me a great deal of hope and confidence in the next generation of leaders. It is a pleasure to be a part of the Burn Bright family.

I have been married to Denise for 41 years and we both very much feel part of the Burn Bright team.

When not at Burn Bright you may find me running along Manly beach, riding my mountain bike or indulging in my passion for photography.











Hi! I’m Rosie, a 20-something full-time public servant, part-time Tassie tourism advocate.

I am passionate about seeing young people succeed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching them become the next generation of change-makers.

I have been a champion of the ethos and work of Burn Bright since its inception in 2014, and consider them to be the leading experts in their field. By delivering impactful leadership and wellbeing programs to students across Australia, they offer the knowledge, skills and engagement to invoke lasting positive change in school communities.

The Burn Bright team are dedicated, inclusive and values-driven, which is why I love working with them.