How to Become an Authentic Leader

What Is Authentic Leadership?

In a world of increasing competition, businesses that are led by authentic leaders have the best chance to succeed. Today, we delve deeper into what it means to be an authentic leader and why you should incorporate these leadership qualities and strategies into your everyday life. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of authentic leadership, check out our initial post here for some insight into the world of authentic leadership.

The concept of authentic leadership has been around for almost two decades. In his 2003 book Authentic Leadership, Bill George dives deeply into the theory that the most successful leaders hold true to their genuine personalities and priorities versus “putting on a show” for their employees. 

No More Jekyll and Hyde at Work

That “show personality” is easily seen through by most employees that spend any amount of time interacting with you. Thinking that you have to act a certain way or say certain things in order to motivate your team can create an uncomfortable dichotomy that’s hard to keep up over time. Isn’t it just easier to be yourself?

It’s okay to be who you really are, as scary as that might seem. Employees want a leader who is relatable, not one that sits atop some unattainable corporate pedestal and is surrounded by a team of terrified sycophants who can’t say what they really think.

A Lack of Authenticity Can Lead to the Death of Your Business

Often leaders create added pressure on themselves to exude a level of expertise and confidence that they may not actually possess. It’s not necessary. No one is good at everything. Pushing too hard to be “right” can be off-putting to others, and once your team sees through the smoke and mirrors of an inauthentic “know it all” leadership style, the results can be catastrophic and fast-acting. Everything from disengaged employees, high turnover, lack of productivity, gossiping, and general overall workplace toxicity can result in a rapid downhill slide for your company.

This all boils down to trust. If your team doesn’t trust that you are who you say you are or see that your actions match up with your words, you lose all integrity.

Here’s the kicker: no one can teach you how to be your true self. That said, there are steps you can take to figure out how to exude your most genuine personality and leadership traits. The best part? You don’t need to wait for your corporate culture to change. You can begin the transformation anytime you want. 

Turn Inward and do Some Self-Assessment

What Are Your Core Values?

In order to really figure out what your authentic leadership style looks like, you need to take a long, hard look at your core values. YOUR core values, not what you feel your core values are supposed to be based on other people’s expectations and leadership styles. Take some time to write them down. Brainstorm. 

Hone Your Strengths

So much of the time, leaders feel that they have to focus on their weaknesses and improve those areas where they struggle. We all know it’s important, but we also know that it’s no fun. 

Take time to acknowledge, hone, and grow your strengths; the aspects of your job that you love doing. Do more of them. Instead of constantly browbeating yourself and focusing on the aspects of your professional life that you suck at don’t do well, take some time to improve the things that you’re already good at and enjoy doing. This will lead to a greater sense of job satisfaction for you, and a greater feeling of success, which will lead to further positive benefits in your work.

Be Selfish

Yep, you read that right. Tune into yourself. Focus on yourself. Assess how your emotions play into your leadership style. What are your triggers? What sets you off? What do you find most rewarding about your career? Your life? Taking the time to really reflect on your personality traits (both the good and the bad) will help you recognize how those traits affect your leadership style. 

Get To Know Your Team

Along with getting to know yourself, we can’t stress the importance of getting to know your team enough. These are the people who support you in all you do. Without them, your company and your livelihood don’t exist.

One of the most authentic things you can do as a leader is to show your team that you’re genuinely interested in them as people. What are their values? Their fears? Their motivating factors? Their challenges? Their successes? 

Spending time learning your team will save you so much time training a new team since your legitimate interest in them will just naturally lead to lower turnover rates.

Have An Accountability Partner

A great way to ensure that you’re being true to yourself and your values is to enlist the help of an accountability partner—someone at work and someone at home who will call you out on your sh…inconsistencies. Having a person in your corner who isn’t afraid to let you know when you’re not being an authentic leader can be very eye-opening. Humbling also, so be prepared for that.

Take Off Your Professional “Mask”

Once you begin to exude and emulate your true values and traits as a leader, you’ll see almost immediate results. Your energy will be higher, more positive. Pretending to be someone you aren’t gets exhausting quickly, so once you stop doing that and acknowledge who you truly are as a leader, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off of you. 

This will then create a snowball effect of better energy, optimism, and enthusiasm that will lead to better and better results in the workplace. Improved corporate culture, engaged employees, and better inner balance are just a few of the amazing benefits you’ll enjoy once you become a truly authentic leader.

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