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November 8, 2022 7 Min Read

Authentic Leadership

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Woman practicing authentic leadership lessons with her team

You’ve probably been told your whole life that your personal and professional identities should remain separate. 

Well, we want you to throw that idea out the window — being your full self could be the secret to creating a high-functioning and successful work environment.

Enter: authentic leadership. 

You’re probably wondering what authentic leadership is. Great question — but before we can answer that, we first have to understand what authenticity (without the leadership) is.

Authenticity is the healthy alignment between internal values and beliefs and external behavior. Authenticity means that you’re true to yourself, and you make life decisions that reflect your ethics, values, and your personality. For example: if you strongly believe in reducing your carbon footprint, then you may decide to go paperless. Or if you believe in helping those less fortunate than you, you may donate your time or money to nonprofits supporting those causes. 

Authenticity and leadership paired together might seem unnatural — whether it’s in media portrayals or through real life experiences, we’re often used to leaders being dictatorial, unemotional, or even cruel. That’s why authentic leadership is such a game changer.  

So, what exactly is authentic leadership?

“Authentic leadership is leading from the inside out,” says Sinto Llobera, Leadership, Sales, and Team coach. 

To get more granular: it’s a style of leadership where leaders are genuine. Authentic leaders are true to themselves and the principles that guide them — they bring their whole selves to their jobs and participate fully and honestly in the workplace. Rather than putting an emphasis on goals like profit and share price, authentic leaders put an emphasis on their people, upholding an ethics-based culture, and building an organization with character. 

But if profit and share price are not the emphasis, why is authentic leadership important? Research from The Leadership Quarterly Journal shows that organizations that foster this type of management are more likely to have engaged, enthusiastic, and motivated employees. It also creates a psychologically safe workplace for those employees and helps to lower stress levels (sounds ideal, right?).

Now that you’ve learned about authentic leadership, we’re sure you’re wondering what makes an authentic leader. Well, they have a couple of defining characteristics. Authentic leaders are: 

  • Self-aware: They know their values, personality, needs, habits, emotions, and how those affect others in the workplace.
  • Trustworthy: They build trust with others who believe in their reliability, truth, ability, and strengths. They create a psychologically safe work environment.
  • Transparent: They’re vulnerable, open, and honest
  • Purposeful: They have an inner calling and a central motivating objective, resulting in meaningful work.  
  • Learners: They use their experiences to grow as a leader, allowing them to adapt to any situation.

If you’d like to become a more authentic leader, Sinto recommends these six easy steps. 

  1. Discover your values 

Sinto says to ask yourself, “who am I?” While this seems like a big question, challenge yourself to dig deeper than your name and your job title. Are you a person who lives to serve others? Are you someone who likes to be an integral part of others’ successes? Take some time to get clear on this question, it’ll help you find your guiding light as you continue to authentically lead.

  1. Spend time in self-reflection 

Pausing is important. Whenever you have five minutes in your day, think about recent events, decisions, and actions. How did they make you feel? What do you feel good about? What would you do differently? Write down your thoughts in a notebook or in the notes app on your phone. 

  1. Ask for feedback

No one’s perfect, which means that most of us have some blind spots. “Become a constant feedback seeker,” says Sinto. Ask co-workers, significant others, or family members questions about your behavior when it comes to taking charge. Look for any commonalities between the answers you’re getting and see if you can implement their feedback in your day-to-day. 

  1. Open yourself up for deeper conversations

Have you ever met someone that listens to you so intently, it feels like there’s no one else in the room? They just might’ve been an authentic leader. Focus on what others are saying without distractions, ask follow-up questions to show you’re engaged, and repeat back what you’ve heard to show you understand. Offer stories that demonstrate your shared experience and personality — it’ll make your working relationships stronger. 

  1.   Focus on learning

As we mentioned, one of the defining characteristics of an authentic leader is that they’re learners. What do learners do? They continuously grow. Lean into this quality by choosing to do something new or taking a course in a topic unfamiliar to you.

  1. Practice empathy. 

Part of being an authentic leader is being able to understand where others are coming from. “Be vulnerable first — that’ll invite others to be vulnerable, too,” says Sinto. While it may feel a little uncomfortable, open yourself up to share and listen. You might have an employee who’s stuck and needs some help — offer an ear, listen to what they’re going through, reassure them that they’re not alone and that you’re there to support them. 

Interested in chatting with Sinto or another leadership coach? Head to the app to book your first session! 

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