Authenticity is a key quality that many leaders strive to achieve. They want to present an authentic version of themselves to their team, clients and stakeholders. I completely understand this need. Who would want to feel like a fraud or pretend to be somebody that they’re not?
Despite this strong desire to be authentic by many leaders across the board, in reality, few achieve it. Why? Because when it comes to leadership, there is a strong temptation to fit into a “leadership mould” (which I talked about in last month’s article).
Many leaders succumb to this temptation and are side-tracked, distracted or manipulated into becoming somebody they’re not. They become a “version” of a leader they believe they “should be” instead of becoming the authentic leader they’re meant to be.
If you have felt at any time in your career that you’re not leading authentically or congruently with your values, then perhaps it’s time to step back and reflect on what’s important to you and what you stand for. Here are five habits of exceptionally authentic leaders that I hope will trigger some introspection for you.
1. They make decisions by their values.
Authentic leaders are not side-tracked by manipulations or distractions from others. They remain focused and confident in the decision they’re making because they know that decision is in-line with their core values. Leadership decisions can carry a great weight for a team and an organisation as a whole. There may be others who are affected by a decision the leader is responsible for and may attempt to sway that leaders thinking for their own benefit. When a leader makes decisions by his/her values, not what others want them to do, they can remain strong and weather outward pressures they face.
Authentic leadership tip: Make leadership decisions based on your values.
2. They communicate assertively and honestly.
Authentic leaders are able to tell others exactly what they want, think, believe and feel. Assertive communication is honest communication. It’s about expressing yourself candidly and uninhibitedly. For authentic leadership, assertive communication is especially important because you must communicate and interact with others in a way that will make them trust you and want to follow you. Nobody will follow a leader if that person displays any signs of falseness or dishonesty in their communication.
Authentic leadership tip: Learn how to communicate assertively and you will come across as more trustworthy.
3. Leaders have a high-level of self-respect.
Authentic leaders won’t always make decisions that please others. They won’t always express a view or opinion that others agree with. But because they have a high-level of self-respect, they trust their own judgement and make decisions independently. The ability to lead despite what others think and feel takes an immense amount of inner strength and confidence which can only come from authentic leadership.
Authentic leadership: Develop a high-level of self-respect to trust your own judgement and make decisions independently.
4. They encourage others to be open and honest.
Authentic leaders can listen to the viewpoint and opinion of others without feeling threatened or start second-guessing themselves. They understand that everybody is entitled to their own ideas, opinions and feelings, and everybody has the right to express them. In fact, they encourage this within their team because they understand that is what creates a dynamic, powerful team.
Authentic leadership tip: Encourage your team to share their ideas and opinions openly and honestly with you.
5. They cultivate strong relationships.
Authentic leaders understand that they cannot achieve their leadership goals alone. They know they are a part of a wider network and must rely on others inside and outside of their organisation to help them achieve their goals. Accordingly, they devote time and energy in building and strengthening crucial relationships, and have a high-level of social skill to support this.
Authentic leadership tip: Focus on cultivating crucial relationships inside and outside of your organisation.
To become the authentic leader that you’re meant to be, you need to stop trying to fit into a “leadership mould” and focus on how you can lead by your values.
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