Authenticity lays the foundation for ‘good leadership’. If we consider building trust as the key to leading effective teams then it is authentic leaders who will best inspire trust and reciprocal loyalty.
Whether you’re a new leader or have been at it for a while, leading small or large teams, we can all learn and adapt to be better prepared to lead today’s talent in a fast-changing environment. Given today’s teams are largely working remotely, conversing more frequently via zoom and often in isolation, it’s never been more important to let our authenticity take over so we can connect with our teams.
Trust is the foundation of all relationships and authentic leaders inspire trust and loyalty through vulnerability and consistently showing who they are. They care about individuals and their team. They are genuine, self-aware, and transparent. Authentic Leadership is a more inclusive approach to leadership and promotes individual and team growth and performance. Authentic leaders will align their personal values to the wider team’s core values as well as the organisation’s values and vision.
It’s easier said than done to suggest we all just start being more vulnerable with our teams but creating more authentic leadership styles can be developed by focusing on 10 key qualities of authentic leadership. How many do you already consistently practice with your teams?
10 Qualities of an Authentic Leader
An authentic leader reflects upon all of their actions and decisions and examines their own strengths and weaknesses without any bias. They put in the effort to overcome their fears and use their strengths to maximum advantage.
Lead with heart
An authentic leader is all heart. They are not afraid to dig deep, and they lead their team with courage and empathy that only comes from listening to the heart. In many ways, this best encapsulates the essence of vulnerability.
Focus on long-term results
Authentic leaders don’t waste precious time unnecessarily worrying over temporary setbacks, or less than stellar results in the previous quarter. Their focus is always long term. They know that patience and hard work do take time but yield rich results in the long run.
Strength of character is essential for an authentic leader. They don’t say things which they don’t mean, and they earn respect because of this quality. People trust them because they keep their word, no matter what it takes.
Lead with vision
Authentic leaders lead with purpose and vision. They always add value to people they interact with and help them realise higher professional goals which lead to better personal lives as well. They push themselves and others around them to raise the bar and aim for excellence.
An authentic leader is always a good listener, even when someone else contradicts their views. In fact, they are even willing to consider those ideas with an open mind and change their opinion if the arguments make sense.
Authentic leaders believe in open communication and combine their directness with empathy, which, more often than not, reaps success. They don’t hide their mistakes and weaknesses and have the courage to actually be who they really are; both in their private public lives, the imagine they project is aligned.
Consistency is another hallmark of authentic leaders. They aren’t fickle and they stick to their principles. Their behaviour is consistent, and they are not easily swayed by superficialities. This consistency further reiterates their ability to be trusted, and provide trust in return.
Share success with the team
This is something that sets an authentic leader apart from other leaders. They not only build a good team but also give credit where credit is due and share success and achievements with the entire team.
Drawing on experience
There is no better teacher than life itself, and these leaders draw from lessons learned from their life experiences. Their leadership skill can be somewhat challenging to refine but can evolve when you embrace your real-world experiences and life stories (the good, the bad and the ugly) for a positive spin.
How to develop your authentic leadership qualities
As a list, it’s easy to see how placing focus on these 10 qualities represents an overwhelming expectation on leaders. However, in my experience, there are a few simples way you can develop and refine these authentic leadership qualities over time.
1. Become more self-aware
Easier said than done, right? Being more self-aware is about understanding your own story and how it has impacted your leadership. Get a proper handle on your strengths and weaknesses, listen to and ask for feedback and be prepared to invest in yourself.
2. Understand your personal values
What drives you? What are you passionate about? The strength of your values are usually best determined when you’re put under pressure as it is our personal values that act as our moral compass and constant check point. A great place to start this process is by downloading Brene Brown’s Values handout. Read through this list and see which words jump out at you.
3. Find and develop your support team
Leaders cannot succeed on their own. It takes support and advice. Authentic leaders build a support team to help them stay focused. This team is on hand to always provide honest feedback and a balanced perspective. They’ve earned the right to speak into your life because you inherently trust them – they’ve earned your trust and you, theirs. Because of this foundation of trust, you can authentically be yourself around them. Consider your friends, family, colleagues and/or mentors to refine your support team.
4. Get personal, but not too personal
True authenticity comes when a leader is balanced and consistent in all areas of their life. Leaders that can integrate the different areas of their life turn the journey to authenticity into a reality. The challenge is balancing effective leadership at work with a healthy insight into your personal life to add value to your relationships.
5. Stick to your roots
Those who achieve true, authentic leadership are constantly working to maintain balance and stay grounded in holistic lives. For all of us, we are constantly battling to find the balance between all the facets of our busy lives; spending time with your family, catching up with friends, physical exercise, community service, spiritual practices, passion projects….the list goes on! Acknowledging where you came from and understanding what drives your personal values and passions will allow your authenticity to be sustainable. It also adds insight into your character to those around you. As an example; your team will soon understand how important physical exercise is to you, and why it is so important, once you embed it as part of the ritual of your day.
6. Inspire and empower those around you
Once a leader has worked through self-awareness (an ongoing challenge), they have earned the rite of passage to empower others to lead. Authentic leaders create a culture of trust and loyalty by not being afraid to show emotion and vulnerability. In doing so, team members are inspired at all levels to step up and lead and/or take on greater challenges. This culture shift has incredibly powerful flow on effects – most notably that the wider organisation can retain and attract top talent that aligns team members with shared values and goals. Thus, authentic leaders produce sustainable results for themselves and their organisation.
Discovering your true, authentic leadership style will require not only honesty but courage. Reflecting on your experiences, owning your story and understanding your values and motives will allow you to be a stronger, more authentic leader. Leading with authenticity will help create balance in your life, build trust and empower others. Taking time to learn your authentic leadership style is a worthwhile journey that will create lasting impact.
If you already consider yourself to be an authentic leader, well done and keep doing what you’re are doing. If not, then I challenge you to embrace authentic leadership because the world needs more, especially during these challenging times.