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Authentic Leadership: What It Is and Why It Works

Many new managers often wonder what it means to be a good leader. One of the virtues of good governance is authentic leadership. However, this could be such a vast and vague principle that it is not that easy to grasp and practice it thoroughly.

What is authentic leadership?

In its simplest sense, authentic leadership is the act of being true to oneself in the practice of leadership. There are other leaders who can act differently at work than they do in different settings. As a result, this causes their people to distrust them and doubt their true character and intentions.

Authentic Leadership,” a book by Bill George, coined the term used today in business and management. The concept has long been used despite the term only becoming popular in the early 2000s. 

Why authentic leadership works

The simple yet complex act of being true to yourself as a leader is a powerful tool that inspires members to cooperate, communicate, and achieve greatness. In fact, according to research, authentic leadership can determine the success of a workplace in terms of employee satisfaction and organizational commitment.

It inspires others by revealing a bit about yourself.

People are generally more willing to cooperate and work with leaders who they know and trust. By revealing your true self to them, you are showing them consistency, stability, and predictability. This way, they are more able to trust you because they know how you react to certain things and which things you like or dislike.

It produces more sustainable positive outcomes.

Authentic leaders align their personal values with their goals to produce immediate outcomes and long-lasting positive results for the organization. While other leaders can switch personalities and principles to meet immediate demands, the authentic leader values lasting results, team relationships, and trust.

It allows introspection and lifelong learning.

It takes a lot of self-awareness to practice authentic leadership. To be true to yourself, you have to acknowledge feelings, experiences, and thoughts that affect your psychology, how you behave, and how you treat others. In a way, becoming a truly authentic leader requires a high level of emotional intelligence.

Is it hard to be an authentic leader?

As simple as it may be, authentic leadership actually takes a lot of hard work. Managers, especially those in higher positions, find it challenging to stick to their true selves as their responsibilities become more extensive and their decisions become harder.

There are no clear-cut rules to authentic leadership as no two leaders are exactly the same in terms of personality, values, and beliefs. It is a profoundly personal leadership style wherein you have to keep in touch with your true self, even as you present yourself with all of your titles and position in front of your team.

Authentic leadership is considered to be a skill. Just like any skill, you need to keep practicing in order to keep it sharp. Never forget to touch base with who you are throughout your entire leadership journey in order to be a truly authentic leader.

How to practice authentic leadership

There is no denying that if you want long-term success and team collaboration, authentic leadership can help out a lot. There are several things you can do in order to practice authentic leadership in the workplace.

Practice self-awareness

Be aware of your own thoughts, feelings, skills, abilities, and weaknesses. Acknowledging all the facts about yourself is a crucial component in self-awareness for authentic leadership. After all, you can’t indeed be yourself if you don’t honestly know yourself.

Practice genuineness

Authentic leaders do not act differently at work as they do in private (at least at their very core). While we may all be more formal at work, our principles, beliefs, and values should be steadfast enough to stay consistent wherever we may be. 

This means not hiding any weaknesses, imperfections, or failures from the team. Some people may have more difficulty revealing their imperfections than others, but it is a critical step in the practice of authentic leadership.

Lead with your mind AND heart

Everyone knows that it is critical for a leader to be objective and fact-based when it comes to making decisions. However, authentic leadership incorporates empathy and compassion on top of their objectivity. 

Authentic leaders are not afraid to show how they feel (appropriately) to their team. The presence of emotion does not make you weak. It makes you human, and that human connection can bring the team closer together, trust their leader, and work harder to achieve a common goal.

Communicate

Authentic leaders go beyond simple instruction. They convey inspiration, motivation and instill their own vision into their people. They achieve this through excellent communication skills.

You don’t need to be overly articulate in the act of communicating, but you should be able to incorporate several communication styles to suit your audience. For example, you may use storytelling, encouraging feedback, stimulating conversation, and practicing good listening skills. 

Mission-centered

Authentic leaders put the organization’s goals and missions over their own self-interest. They focus more on improving the conditions of their team and producing sustainable results than their own ego. In essence, they care less about wealth, power, and position than they do about the company’s mission.

Focus on the far future

While some leaders are eager to do anything and everything to get results right here and right now, authentic leaders look further beyond. They ask questions like “How will this decision affect the team later on?” or “Will I be modeling the right example that I want the team to duplicate in the future?” or maybe “Will this strengthen or weaken my relationship with the team in the long run?”

Focusing on the long-term effects of current actions allows authentic leaders to produce more sustainable results that don’t just “burn out” quickly. They realize that building a solid team takes a lot of patience and hard work but pays off in the long run.

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