people follow authentic leader

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.”  – Brian Tracy

When I originally set out to write about authentic leadership, I had grand plans to deliver a truly engaging and eye opening piece but as my research progressed – there was one painfully obvious conclusion staring me in the face…this topic has been written to death.

So what I am going to do is summarize my learning’s and share with you how to spot an authentic leader versus a fake one. I love this quote from Dan Rockwell:

Using the term “authentic” doesn’t make you authentic any more than sleeping in a garage makes you a car.

Let’s start with what Authentic Leadership really means. One very succinct definition states the following:

  • Authentic leadership is an approach to leadership that emphasizes building the leader’s legitimacy through honest relationships with followers, which value their input and are built on an ethical foundation. Generally, authentic leaders are positive people with truthful self-concepts who promote openness.

Here are 11 signs you are an authentic leader:

  1. You talk comfortably about failure.
  2. You demonstrate humility without reservation.
  3. You know who you are and what you stand for.
  4. You speak tough truths comfortably.
  5. You explore-with rather than conclude-for.
  6. You invite feedback.
  7. You stand for something; recognizing your work is bigger than you.
  8. You honor others, openly.
  9. You possess compassion, curiosity and courage.
  10. You know and acknowledge your weaknesses.
  11. You empathize without compromise.

How do you become an authentic leader?

According to the HBR article: “Discovering your authentic leadership” (2007), they couldn’t identify any over arching characteristics, traits, skills or styles that lead to leadership success. We all have it in our DNA to rise up and lead others in an authentic way. Here are a few ways to begin today:

  • Learn from your life story, it is not about your CV but about your personal narrative of the struggles you went through to become who you are, the strengths and understanding of your deeper purpose that you have found through this trans-formative process.
  • Self-knowledge, the Greeks already knew that this is the beginning of all wisdom and for today’s leaders it is no different. Self-awareness and awareness of your impact on your environment is key in becoming successful. Leaders need to listen to feedback, especially the one they don’t want to hear.
  • Practicing values and beliefs. Leadership principles are values translated into action. Authentic leadership is based on values which are derived from principles and beliefs but you will only know what the true values are when they’re tested under pressure.
  • The balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivations are congruent with your values and are more fulfilling than extrinsic motivations. Extrinsic motivations are about how one is motivated by measuring success against the outside world (recognition, status, reward…), getting away from this outside validation is not easy.
  • Building your support team is needed to help stay on course by providing counsel, help and even celebration in times of success. It is a multifaceted support structure that includes spouses, significant others, families, mentors, close friends and colleagues on whom one can rely so one can be open and vulnerable.
  • Integrating your life by staying grounded. Integrating their lives is one of the greatest challenges leaders face. To lead a balanced life they need to bring together all of its constituent elements – work, family and friends – so that you can be the same person in each environment. Authentic leaders have a steady and confident presence; the question is not how you can avoid stress but how you can control it to maintain your own sense of equilibrium.
  • Empower people to lead. The key to successful leadership is to empower those around you to lead, at all levels of the organization, even those who do not have direct reports.

Final thoughts:
Being an authentic leader doesn’t mean you exhibit all of these traits all the time but it does require a sense of tolerance for vulnerability, which can challenge the best of us. Authentic leadership is courageous leadership because you have to make yourself vulnerable by showing others who you truly are. Authentic leadership is a constant journey and commitment, both to your own growth and to the growth of something bigger than yourself.

The floor is yours: 
What makes an authentic leader?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

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