How to Develop Authentic Leadership

How to Develop Authentic Leadership

One of the key behavioural aspirations for todays’ leaders is to be viewed as authentic and genuine, self-aware but not false or ‘over-coached’, someone who is ethical with a strong moral compass.  As the list of corporate organizations continuing to lose the trust of their shareholders, teams and consumers gets longer, business leaders are even keener than post the Lehman Brothers scandal in 2008 to demonstrate integrity and honesty.  They are looking to balance strong leadership skills and competencies, such as assertiveness, leadership judgement, strategy execution and alignment, whilst demonstrating empathy, emotional intelligence and inter-cultural sensitivity.  As Henry Cloud wrote in his book ‘Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality’: ‘Just as we leave the effects of our work behind in results, we leave the effects of our interactions with people in their hearts, minds, and souls.’

So, how do you develop Authentic Leadership?

Years ago, it seemed to be a simple question of being able to look yourself in the mirror without feeling shame and guilt regarding any misdemeanours in or outside work, which could lose you the top job.  Nowadays, being an authentic leader is not only about being honest with yourself and the Board regarding the finances and any out of office deviations, but also about truly ‘walking the talk’ at all times, especially in front of the whole workforce.  Leaders will often cite the company’s vision, mission and values, but may not live these themselves or follow best practice whilst making key decisions.  The Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation still holds true today regarding actions speaking louder than words: ‘The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.’

Being inconsistent in communication and actions, reneging on promises, breaking confidentiality are all sure fire ways of disengaging the senior team as well as employees.  The number of actively non-engaged workers is reported to be rising considerably, especially among the Millennials, who now constitute around 50% of employed individuals.  Add this to the lively war for talent, the highest employment figures for almost fourty years, and the negative impact of Brexit in the UK on the influx of skilled EU workers, leaders cannot afford to appear insincere or disingenuous in front of their teams, let alone their increasingly savvy, informed and social-media literate customers.  As with any relationship, once trust and respect are lost, it takes years to be regained, if at all.

A Face to Face 360 Feedback Review is one of the most robust methods of determining the areas leaders need to improve, followed by Executive Coaching to embed key leadership competencies and behaviours.

Ways for leaders to develop Authentic Leadership include:

  • Living the values
  • Showing genuine care for their people
  • Using a Coaching, not telling or autocratic, approach
  • Building trust through being consistent and following up on promises
  • Developing positive working relationships
  • Actively Listening
  • Asking Open Questions
  • Communicating Change
  • Making transparent decisions
  • Consulting with the leadership team
  • Asking for feedback
  • Expecting high standards of themselves and their teams
  • Managing Conflict
  • Dealing swiftly with poor performance
  • Demonstrating Resilience
  • Managing Talent and Building Succession
  • Creating a trust based culture, where it’s OK to make mistakes

Above all and simply put, telling the truth and treating others the way you would like to be treated reaps the reward of having high performing engaged teams, as well as the ensuing financial rewards.


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