True leadership is about who you are

Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership: How to lead with integrity and purpose

Authentic leadership is a style of leadership that is characterized by honesty, transparency, and self-awareness. Authentic leaders are genuine and sincere in their actions, and they lead with integrity and a strong sense of purpose.

These leaders are also self-aware, continuously reflecting on their own values, beliefs, and behaviors, and they are able to regulate their emotions and actions in a healthy and constructive way. Authentic leaders are also able to connect with others on a deep level, and they are able to inspire and motivate others to achieve their full potential. Overall, authentic leadership is about being true to oneself and leading in a way that is consistent with one’s values and beliefs.


5 benefits of Authentic leadership

  1. Authentic leaders are more self-aware and self-regulating, which can lead to better decision-making and more effective communication with others.
  2. They can foster greater trust and credibility among followers, as people are more likely to respect leaders who are genuine and transparent.
  3. Authentic leaders are often more open to feedback and willing to listen to the ideas and perspectives of others, leading to a more collaborative and inclusive work environment.
  4. Authentic leadership can lead to higher levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction, as employees feel more valued and supported by their leaders.
  5. It has a positive impact on organizational culture, as it promotes values such as honesty, integrity, and transparency. This can lead to a more positive and productive work environment for all members of the organization.

characteristics of Authentic leaders

  1. Self-awareness: Authentic leaders have a strong sense of self-awareness, meaning they have a clear understanding of their own strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs. This self-awareness allows them to be more mindful of their own emotions and actions, and it helps them to make better decisions.
  2. Genuine and sincere: Authentic leaders are genuine and sincere in their actions and interactions with others. They are not afraid to be themselves and are comfortable showing their true emotions and values.
  3. Transparent: Authentic leaders are transparent and open with others, making it easy for people to know their true intentions and plans.
  4. Humble: Authentic leaders are humble and open to feedback and criticism, recognizing that they are not perfect and that they can always learn and improve.
  5. Empathetic: Authentic leaders are empathetic and able to connect with others on a deep level. They are able to understand and appreciate the perspectives and feelings of others.
  6. Inspiring and motivating: Authentic leaders are able to inspire and motivate others to achieve their full potential. They are able to create a sense of purpose and meaning in the work that they do. If you would like some tips about finding your purpose, consider reading Finding Your Purpose in Life: 10 Tips to Discover Your True Calling
Authentic Leadership

Downsides of authentic leadership

  1. Time and energy: Being an authentic leader can require a significant time and energy investment, as it involves continuously reflecting on one’s own values and beliefs, as well as actively seeking feedback and input from others.
  2. Vulnerability: Authentic leaders are often more vulnerable, as they are willing to be open and transparent with others. This vulnerability can make them more susceptible to criticism and attacks from others.
  3. Resistance to change: Authentic leaders may face resistance from others who are not used to this style of leadership and who may be uncomfortable with the transparency and vulnerability it involves.
  4. High expectations: Authentic leaders may be held to higher expectations by others, as they are expected to consistently model the values and behaviors that they espouse.

Overall, while authentic leadership can be highly effective, it does require a willingness to be vulnerable and open to feedback and change, and it can be challenging to maintain this approach in the face of resistance or criticism from others.


How to overcome these downsides

  • Prioritize self-care and set boundaries to manage time and energy investment.
  • Practice self-reflection and work on building self-awareness to better handle vulnerability and criticism.
  • Communicate openly and clearly with others about the benefits and expectations of authentic leadership, and actively listen to and address any concerns or resistance.
  • Seek out supportive relationships and a strong support system, whether in the form of mentors, peers, or a coach.
  • Continuously work on developing and improving leadership skills and strategies, such as effective communication, active listening and conflict resolution.
  • Be consistent and persistent in modeling the values and behaviors that they espouse.

How to become an Authentic leader

  • Develop self-awareness by reflecting on personal values, beliefs, and strengths, as well as areas for improvement.
  • Communicate openly and honestly with others, and actively seek feedback to understand how one’s actions and words are perceived.
  • Act with integrity and in alignment with personal values and beliefs, even in the face of difficult decisions or challenges.
  • Lead by example and model the behaviors and values that one wants to see in others.
  • Encourage and support the development and growth of others, and create a culture of trust and openness within the team or organization.
  • Continuously learn and grow as a leader, through reading, attending workshops, seeking mentorship and coaching.
  • Be open to change and willing to adapt one’s leadership style as needed.

Difference with Visionary leadership

Visionary leadership refers to a style of leadership in which the leader has a clear, inspiring vision for the future and is able to communicate that vision to others and mobilize them to work towards achieving it. 

Authentic leadership, on the other hand, refers to a style of leadership in which the leader is genuine, transparent, and self-aware, and leads with integrity, values, and a sense of purpose. 

While visionary leadership focuses on creating a future vision and inspiring others to work towards it, authentic leadership focuses on being true to oneself and one’s values and leading with integrity.

If a leader combines visionary and authentic leadership styles, it can lead to a powerful and effective leadership approach. The leader would have a clear, inspiring vision for the future and the ability to communicate it to others, while also leading with integrity, values, and a sense of purpose. This can inspire and motivate followers to work towards achieving a common goal, while also promoting trust and respect from followers. Additionally, by leading with authenticity, the leader is more likely to gain the support of team members and other stakeholders, which can be critical for achieving success.


Examples of authentic leaders

  1. Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks: Schultz is known for his commitment to authenticity and transparency, and he has been recognized for his ability to inspire and motivate others. He has also been praised for his strong sense of social responsibility and his efforts to make Starbucks a more sustainable and ethical company.
  2. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook: Sandberg is known for her authenticity and her willingness to be vulnerable, particularly in her best-selling book “Lean In,” which discusses her personal experiences with loss and resilience. She is also known for her strong commitment to diversity and inclusion within the tech industry.
  3. Oprah Winfrey, media executive and philanthropist: Oprah is known for her authenticity and her ability to connect with others on a deep level. She has been recognized for her strong leadership skills and her ability to inspire and empower others through her work in media and philanthropy.
  4. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group: Branson is known for his authenticity and his willingness to take risks and challenge the status quo. He is also known for his strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and his efforts to make the Virgin Group a more sustainable and ethical company.


Recommended books

  • “Authentic Leadership” by Bill George: In this book, George, a former CEO and leadership expert, provides a comprehensive overview of authentic leadership and offers practical tips and strategies for developing this style of leadership. You can find a full review of this book here
  • “The Leadership Challenge” by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner: This classic leadership book discusses the importance of authenticity in leadership and provides tools and techniques for leaders to become more self-aware and genuine in their actions.
  • “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown: In this book, Brown, a researcher and storyteller, discusses the importance of vulnerability in leadership and how leaders can embrace their imperfections and authentically connect with others.
  • “Leadership and Self-Deception” by Arbinger Institute: This book offers a unique perspective on leadership and self-awareness, discussing how our own self-deception can get in the way of authentic leadership and how to overcome it.

If you’d like to compare visionary leadership with other styles of leadership, you can read this post:  Leadership Styles, Why and When They Matter.

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