Does your team know your core values and personality style?
Is your behavior consistent in all your interactions with your colleagues?
Do you sometimes find yourself following a pattern of behaviors that others expect from you, instead of creating your own?
Do you experience a level of stress trying to perform to others’ standards?
As a leader, if you’ve ever reflected on any of these questions, you’re probably thinking about how to behave authentically in these situations. Sometimes that next promotion causes you to reevaluate your approach. Or a new and very challenging situation causes you to doubt your effectiveness. You may observe others making certain decisions, communicating in a certain way that seems to work for them, but you don’t feel similarly motivated to do the same things they did, because it just doesn’t feel genuine. You recognize that your leadership behaviors in past assignments may need to be further developed for future ones, but you want to make sure that they fully reflect your values, and what you want and need to achieve in your role. You’re developing your authentic leadership style.
What is authentic leadership?
Authentic leaders are genuine, self-aware and transparent. Their willingness to share vulnerabilities about their strengths and learning opportunities and to provide honest feedback about team members’ performance inspires loyalty and trust with others. It’s a mix of their unique personality style, life experiences and values, combined with good leadership behaviors such as how they think, the results they achieve, how they lead themselves and others.
Bill George, the retired CEO of Medtronic, says: “Authentic leaders have a deep sense of purpose for their leadership and are true to their core values. They are people of the highest integrity who are committed to building enduring organizations. Authentic leaders see themselves as stewards of the assets they inherit and servants of all their stakeholders. They lead with their hearts, not just their heads, yet they have the self-discipline to produce consistently strong results.”
Authenticity shows up in their career choices, the organizations they choose to work with and for, their performance in specific assignments, how they communicate with their team, how they organize their work, how they make decisions, how they handle conflict, how they build energy and reduce stress. They make leadership decisions that align with their strengths and highest values.
Authenticity connects and engages
The ability to communicate authentically with others enables leaders to interact more productively and constructively. Authentic leadership doesn’t give you the right to dominate or disregard others. It’s not about prioritizing your personal desires before another’s. Since leadership is influence, it means that leaders must pay attention to others’ personality styles and values, and find the intersection between the individual, the team and the organization for optimal performance. They look for areas of common interests and collaboration. They engage groups of people because they demonstrate respect for others’ ideas and opinions.
Keys to authenticity
If you’re not sure whether you’re displaying authentic leadership, here are several steps you can take.
- Reflect on your core values and priorities in life. Make sure your time allocation and behaviors align with them.
- Increase self-awareness of your capabilities, interests, and where/how you perform best. Get feedback from others on what you do well. Continue to improve your skills and ensure you’re in an environment that is aligned with your values.
- Know the work that energizes you versus what drains you emotionally, intellectually, and physically. During the course of a week, think about when you were happiest, most engaged and connected with those around you. This is indicative of a time when you’re operating authentically and productively.
- Learn and accept your personal style, the topics you’re passionate about, and how they align with others in your environment.
This will enable you to make a better connection with others as you:
- Understand the cultural norms of your organization and find a unique way to engage with them without violating your personal values.
- Share your organizational purpose and passions with your colleagues. Talk about what is most meaningful to you in your role.
- Discuss your teams’ expectations of you and share your expectations of them. Talk with them about how you lead.
- Talk with others about what you’ve learned from challenging experiences and readily admit your mistakes.
Sometimes, becoming a more authentic leader may require you to make tough decisions as you recognize the need to shift to a different role or environment, where your authenticity is a better fit. You may have to tell your colleagues about behavioral adjustments you’ll be making. You may elect to modify your strategic plan to align with your purpose. But most importantly, you’ll lean into the responsibilities of your leadership role in a way that connects your heart with the hearts of those with whom you work. Your value to others will increase.
For more resources on leadership, listen to the Power Up Your Team podcast.