Are You An Authentic Leader?
I recently found myself in a situation that made me uncomfortable. The source of the discomfort, upon later reflection, came from feeling like I was not completely authentic to who I am and what I want to stand for. It was not an ethical indiscretion that occurred, but rather a poor judgement call on how to handle some difficult personalities in a business meeting that I decided to go along with. Instead of objecting upfront and remaining true to who I am, I bowed to pressure in order to meet someone else’s expectations. Regardless of the severity of the compromise that occurred or the reason I allowed it to happen in the first place, that situation got me thinking about authenticity. To be more specific, it got me thinking about the trait of authenticity in organizational leaders. In a corporate world full of executives spewing buzzwords, jargon and superficial messaging that is intended to inspire and motivate, the truly authentic leaders shine through every time amid the sea of imitators. Authenticity, as an attribute in a leader, distinguishes that person as demonstrating veracity in all aspects of their lives, with an uncompromising fidelity to their core values.
What Does it Mean To Be An Authentic Leader?
The measures for authenticity in leadership are blurry, at best. It is almost an indescribable quality in leaders that is attractive to us, yet hard to pin down why. If you possess an unnatural level of integrity, you may be an authentic leader. If others can always rely on your dependability, trustworthiness and uncensored truth, you may be an authentic leader. Yet, there is more to it than that. Such is the mystical part about authentic leaders that make it hard to articulate exactly what makes them authentic to begin with.
Authentic leaders provide us a great deal of value in our lives, perhaps more than we might realize. They bring vision where we cannot see it and truth where we cannot hear it. They do so naturally in their day-to-day interactions with those they work with, making their contribution to the workplace enormous. Their vision can illuminate the corners of our imagination, thus inspiring us with knowledge and understanding. When they interact with us, they speak to us truthfully, but not with the crude bluntness of someone that feels they are entitled to speak down to us from their higher position. Rudeness, by the way, almost always kills inspiration and motivation, whereas authentic leaders create both inspiration and motivation.
How Does Being Authentic Affect the Organization?
Authentic leaders live an “impactful” existence, affecting those around them positively and making everyone “better off” as a result of their lives having crossed paths. Instead of concerning themselves with what is in it for them, they are servant leaders to their staff and demonstrate selfless giving to others without regard to their own benefit. They take charge and lead us forward, doing everything in their power to bring the stragglers along with them and never going on without first trying to do so. That strengthens an organization, by bringing trust and loyalty to the workplace. Everyone’s contribution and commitment is improved. With such leaders in place, the tide rises and lifts everyone along with it as a result.
What Actions Can You Take To Improve On Authenticity?
To work on your own authenticity quotient, start with knowing, understanding and practicing adherence to your fundamental core values (walking the walk). That requires some serious introspection. It also requires brutal honesty with yourself in order to peal back the facade you want others to see and to deal with who you really are inside as of today.
If your core values are to be a strong leader for your staff, then consistently demonstrate support of your employees and be relentless in your passion to help them achieve their goals. If one of your core values is to stay on the right side of right, then practice fair and ethical behavior at all times while holding others accountable to the same standards.
The point is, do what you believe. Set the example for others and demonstrate authenticity at every step along the way. Everyone of us is human and therefore make mistakes. Correct them and be accountable to yourself to avoid making the same mistake again. Authenticity is what authenticity does.