One of the latest trends in leadership research centres around the concept of Authenticity.
The central idea behind Authenticity is that the leader creates a sense of legitimacy based on honesty and openness. Through this, they are able to develop trust with their staff who them operate in a more positive and effective environment. In other words, if I am a nice person and I act in a decent way, people will like me and work for me.
But how easy is it to be authentic? How easy is to be open? Will people still respect a leader who shows his/her inner demons?
Culture holds the key
Like a lot of ideas within Leadership, context is everything. In my opinion, a manager can only be authentic in an environment that fosters openness. Any manager who works within a blame culture or within a politically negative culture will struggle to be themself. They will always be on guard that their weaknesses can be exploited.
Authenticity requires a leader to be vulnerable. They have to be comfortable in saying “I don’t have all the answers”.
In order to be open and authentic, a leader has to understand themself. Daniel Goleman’s places Self-Awareness as step one in his model for developing high levels of emotional intelligence.
Self-awareness means knowing which emotions you are feeling and why, it means understanding the links between your feelings and what you think, say and do and it means knowing how your feelings affect your performance.
For some people that can be scary stuff but it is the secret to personal and professional growth. A leader who wants to develop must start by analysing him/herself, noticing their behaviour, asking for feedback, assessing their strengths and weaknesses.
Tip #1: Ask for feedback from friends and trusted colleagues. Ask them what you do well, what you could do better. Ask them about how you come across and whether you demonstrate empathy.
In fact, this is a place where a leader can use a coach or a mentor to allow them to gain a better perspective on themselves. A coach or mentor will provide an objective assessment back tot he manager.
Possess clear values
As part of this process, it is a good idea for a leader to understand down their values and beliefs. Those values and beliefs sit at the core of people’s psyche and drive behaviours. Where someone acts outside of their values and beliefs, a dissonance is created that erodes authenticity.
Tip #2: Write down your values and beliefs in a notebook. For each value, consider why it is important to you and consider what happens when you do something that contradicts that value.
Once you have started on the first two stages, you can then begin to act according your principles with more confidence and that confidence in yourself will be the basis of trust that others invest in you.
But this is not a one-off exercise. It is a constant cycle of review, action and reflection. Much like a ship’s captain will constantly check the course, a good leader will take time to check that they are still doing the right thing and still in tune with their own values.
Tip #3: Build in time in your diary for regular review of how you have interacted, of your values and how you feel.
If you can follow those steps, you are well on the way to becoming an authentic leader, one who leads with compassion, who operates from a strong ethical stance and one who develops very strong bonds with their team.
If you want to know more about how to develop into an Authentic Leader, get in touch and we can talk through these steps in more detail.