There’s nothing like discovering a leader has been misleading their followers. It is an uncomfortable revelation that I’ve seen deflate morale, halt momentum, and make it difficult for a company to build a strong team.
The saddest part to me is that often, all that was required to avoid those situations was a little honesty and a willingness to overlook one’s personal pride in favor of the betterment of those around them.
Let’s explore why authenticity plays such a key role in strong executive leadership — along with a few recommendations for how to cultivate a sense of authenticity in your brand.
Harvard Business School defines authentic leadership thusly, “Authentic leadership is a leadership style exhibited by individuals who have high standards of integrity, take responsibility for their actions, and make decisions based on principle rather than short-term success.”
The online professional academic site adds that authentic leaders use their inner compasses to guide daily decision-making. They are also defined by the motivation behind their behaviors. They look past the bottom line and strive to create genuine connections and relationships with their team members.
Authentic leadership is a powerful tool that can:
- Boost job satisfaction and happiness for employees.
- Improve interpersonal relationships between co-workers.
- Foster greater trust and more positivity in the workplace.
- Boost productivity, efficiency, and, ultimately, revenue.
The struggle comes from maintaining authentic leadership — and propagating it throughout a leadership team.
Understanding the importance of authenticity in leadership is one thing. But how can you take that theoretical wisdom and apply it effectively in the workplace? Here are a few tips for ways to create a culture that encourages executives to be their genuine selves …while still leading effectively.
Authenticity has to start at the top. Edward Sullivan, CEO and Managing Partner at Velocity Coaching, says, “Encouraging your leaders to be more authentic begins with being more authentic yourself.”
The executive coaching professional adds, “Leaders who are too perfect or polished, or who never ask for help or admit when they are wrong, signal to the other leaders in their organizations to do the same.”
From terms to actions, authentic leadership must start at the top if you’re going to adopt and maintain it over time.
Authenticity requires a certain degree of transparency in communication. A key step to becoming authentic is “to be transparent with your followers, peers, and superiors.”
The LinkedIn article continues, “This means sharing relevant information, admitting mistakes, acknowledging uncertainties, and giving honest feedback.” Transparency creates a baseline of trust and credibility that is essential for an authentic company culture.
While transparency is important, it doesn’t mean you should say everything that comes into your mind. “Being an authentic leader doesn’t mean revealing inappropriate personal details, talking about yourself incessantly, or telling people how you feel all the time,” explains Brooke Vuckovic.
The Clinical Professor of Management and Organizations at Northwestern Kellog follows this up by saying, “The point of being authentic is that it frees you up to be others-focused.”
Authenticity is prioritizing others through honesty. It isn’t oversharing. Always ask yourself before disclosing any kind of sensitive information and consider if it is relevant or valuable at the moment.
Authenticity can be tailored to your strengths. Brenda Ellington Booth, who works alongside Vuckovic at Northwestern Kellog, speaks to this as well, pointing out that things like cost reductions or cutting down on staff are tough jobs that require strong, resilient leaders. This is different from the kind of leadership required for encouraging workers or boosting overall morale.
Ellington adds that the important thing isn’t to ignore your weaknesses. Instead, acknowledge shortcomings and look for executives who can deliver at a higher level than yourself in that area. If you play to your own strengths and work with others who can complement them, you can create strong, effective leadership teams.
Authentic leaders are a cornerstone of sustained success. They establish honest, transparent work environments and lead to authentic communication and genuine results. Use the tips above to ensure you’re encouraging your executives to not just be strong or successful but authentic in their leadership.