The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines authenticity as "worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact."
The keywords here are based on a fact that cannot be disputed.
In work life, everyone has a personal story about the leaders they have met. Some of these leaders might have been horrible, while others practiced greater self awareness and strong core values that left a lasting mark.
Authentic leaders likely fall in the latter category.
Authenticity in leadership is not a new concept an has been studied throughout history from Greek philosophers to the work of Shakespeare ("To thy self be true." –Polonius, Hamlet).
Authentic leadership has been explored, giving rise to authentic leadership theory as part of modern management science, but it found its highest acceptance since Bill George's 2003 book Authentic leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value
So what is an authentic leadership style? And what are the characteristics of an authentic leader?
In this article, we will shed some light on an authentic leadership style, its components, its importance, and how to use this style to be a better leader.
What is Authentic Leadership?
Authentic leadership is a management style that focuses on transparency and ethical leadership skills encouraging the open sharing of information needed to make decisions while accepting team members' input.
Authentic leaders build a positive work environment that will ensure employee job satisfaction. Authentic leadership also involves a long-term focus on organizational commitments.
Authentic leadership significant affects an employee's job satisfaction and performance.
Why is Authentic Leadership Important?
Authentic leadership promotes more vital collaboration and effective communication across teams. This contributes to a positive work environment where employees share openly, celebrate success, and identify challenges to be addressed.
Authentic leadership is a management style that can result in the following:
1. A positive workplace environment
Authentic leaders strive to connect with their employees, making them feel recognized and appreciated. This improves workplace happiness and builds a positive work environment that increases performance as psychological safety is assured.
2. Increased productivity
When team members work together under a robust and authentic leader, productivity increases as they develop a strong sense of team work and deliver for the greater good of the team and organization as they are sufficiently motivated, leading to a greater organizational commitment.
3. Strengthens trust
A great leader actively listens to their employees and considers giving positive feedback; it can develop a trustworthy relationship with the team.
This is a key element of a healthy work environment.
Improves employee morale
When team members feel that their concerns can be heard and addressed, they may feel more welcome in the workplace, which increases confidence. Organizations nowadays have realized the need to maintain employee morale by developing programs to boost their employees and ensure they are comfortable working and performing.
People with authentic leaders bring their whole selves to their jobs and participate fully and honestly in the workplace.
Organizations that foster genuine behavior are likelier to have engaged, enthusiastic, motivated employees and psychologically safe cultures.
What are Authentic Leadership Characteristics?
What makes an authentic leader different from other leaders? Here are some of their characteristics:
1. High sense of Emotional intelligence.
Everyone has emotions, including those in leadership positions, but what shows a leader's authenticity is the ability to control them from getting in the way of them fulfilling their responsibilities.
Authentic leaders possess emotional intelligence, enabling them to deliver feedback without letting emotions cloud their judgment and actions.
2. They practice Compassion & Empathy
Part of being an authentic leader is having compassion and empathy. Empathetic leaders connect with their employees at a human level, and they understand that they have negative and positive forms. They seek to understand the reason for unsatisfactory performance, and they seek feedback before quickly reprimanding them.
3. They Have Long-term goals.
Authentic leaders usually have long-term goals, and they usually align with those of the organization. They share those goals with others, are honest about potential obstacles, and recognize the importance of acknowledging them.
4. They are Highly Self Aware
The best leaders have a good understanding of who they are, and they know their strengths, weaknesses, and what limits their abilities. This massively promotes leadership effectiveness.
Moreover, self awareness goes hand-in hand with emotional intelligence, an essential leadership skill that makes them successful. They react to how their team members respond to their words and actions.
5. They have Great Listening skills.
Great leaders offer great advice to their team members, but genuine leaders build trust in a relationship by actively listening to their subordinates and peers.
Authentic leaders have well-developed listening skills that enable them to interpret the needs of their team and customers.
They also make decisions that reflect on their personal values and provide lasting value by improving the job satisfaction of those around them.
6. They practice Transparency.
Authentic leaders are transparent in their workplace and remain honest when sharing their feelings and thoughts. This may include offering constructive feedback to team members when necessary and admitting when they're in the wrong.
In doing so, an authentic leader leads by example and fosters transparency among the team and organization.
Such a virtue will help build authentic behavior among their employees and help them understand what they need to have when they get to leadership positions.
Developing an Authentic Leadership Style.
Leadership styles are not fixed. It is possible to develop an authentic leadership approach. Therefore, developing an authentic leader requires some learning process, and here are some of the tips:
Develop a leadership image.
Building a leadership image is all about a sincere passion and desire to learn and change. With that in mind, consider the gap between the image others have of you and the image you would like to project.
A big obstacle to authenticity is a strong need to maintain a specific image. Try to let go of the tight limits or expectations of how you need to appear, and revealing your personality and humanness is a better sign of effective leadership.
Time and again, gaining awareness of your current image and leadership brand goes a long way, but before you make any changes, get a truthful picture of your current vision.
Take time to understand how others see you and why. Seek feedback from your colleagues, boss, and direct reports. Ask your friends and colleagues. These points of view will shed light on how the people around you view your words and behavior.
Improve your self-awareness.
Practicing your self-awareness will help you become an authentic leader. To be a successful leader, you need to understand what you care about the most self-reflection will help you know your strengths and weaknesses.
You can ask for constructive feedback from leaders and mentors and invest in personal and professional development. Self-awareness can help you relate to others positively and professionally, increasing your ability to make meaningful connections in the workplace.
Being self-aware will help you discover ways of leading your team members to success and learn new things you can work on.
Build up on your Communication skills.
Authentic leaders have a strong line of communication when engaging with their employees. Good communication is essential as it helps create a trustworthy environment where decisions made by management can be easily conveyed.
In a business, communication is vital, as the employees need to know what they are working towards. Authentic leaders should ensure that all necessary information is passed along.
Some essential skills to strengthen include active listening, constructive feedback, written communication, and verbal communication. Good communication helps your team better understand your expectations and provides them with the resources necessary to complete their work.
Lead by example.
To authentically inspire employees, the people in power must lead by example. Doing what you set out to do will be an excellent way to prove that you are trustworthy—completing tasks that you want your team to achieve is another way to lead by example.
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Be Open to Feedback.
To be an authentic leader, you must consider other people's considerations reasonably.
When engaging with employees, you might have some suggestions thrown your way. Their proposals may not align with your perspective. Seek to understand the misalignment and look at it from their perspective.
However, essential suggestions are to build solid relationships between team members, which will help address misalignment and create more collaborative situations. Ensure that you maintain a moral perspective in all you do.
Have Ethical Standards.
To be an authentic leader, your ethical behavior should always be on point. You need to know what you're committing to, lines you won't cross even if it costs you your job, and your non-negotiables.
Having ethical standards will help you maintain high standards for yourself and the people you lead. This enables you to be genuine and have a sense of responsibility and accountability.
Authenticity means putting what you say into practice. Credibility and authenticity arise when you are consistent in what you say and do.
Putting all your plans to practice will build consistency, and employees below you will follow suit and help your business or organization improve.
Businesses and Authentic leadership.
In this modern age, authentic leaders are becoming the new CEOs, and being authentic is a powerful way to differentiate yourself from your competition. Authenticity brings out the best in others, which means nothing will hold you from achieving your mission. Not only does authenticity make people better as individuals, but it also makes for a more robust company culture and productivity.
Authenticity is the foundation of trust; if there's one thing every business needs, it's to build trust with its stakeholders. They're top-of-mind when deciding how you want your brand represented in any given situation.
It's also critical to understand that leadership does not just mean being a leader in the workplace. It means being a strong leader who makes a difference regardless of the space they are in, including your family and friends, your community, everyone, and everything.
Challenges with Authentic Leadership.
The balance between people and accountability.
Authentic leadership goes wrong when a leader thinks caring for people and holding them accountable are mutually exclusive. A wrinkle occurs when they value one over the other.
A leader may focus on keeping their employees happy or holding them accountable. They fail to realize that they don’t need to be nice and kind to people to show they care. And caring for them doesn’t mean they don’t care about the outcomes.
Balancing high expectations and employees’ learning and growth creates a culture of excellence in which their teams, as well as their organization thrives. By embracing uncertainty and tapping into their motivation, they help their teams stay resilient when faced with challenges.
Great leaders have the self discipline to contain their emotions and prevent it from clouding their judgments. Authentic leadership is affected when embracing emotions gets in the way of compelling conversations.
An example is when resolving conflict, a leader may try to avoid hard conversations or have delays from having them. They may also shy away from sharing honest feedback for the worry that it might hurt others.
Authentic leadership shows up when leaders do not dismiss their negative emotions or hide their feelings. Rather, their behavior is a product of their conscious choice to act positively despite feeling those feelings.
Transparency without boundaries
Authenticity is not revealing it all, overburdening others with our deep-seated fears, and sharing otherwise sensitive information can make the other person feel uncomfortable.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to be a leader who practices transparency. But some leaders may take it too far. They may fail to draw a line between what’s relevant and what’s irrelevant, which may overwhelm people with what will help them in making better decisions.
Let Highrise Teach you how to be an Authentic leader
At Highrise, we understand what it takes to be an authentic and effective leader. This includes the trade offs you need to make to leverage your own strengths and weaknesses to realize success.
Reach out to us for a comprehensive solution on how you can further enhance your leadership skills ability.