I once read an article in @incmagazine titled “5 Ways That Leadership Is Like Acting” – some interesting thoughts there – and then read another one by @hbr asking if “being yourself” as a leader is terrible advice. This raises the question of what authentic leadership is really? Is it about changing who you are to fit the role, or is it about staying true to your core values? Well, bear with me here, but it’s a little bit of both, and they’re not mutually exclusive.
Authenticity, in my opinion, speaks to adherence to your guiding principles, your core values, such as ‘integrity’ or ‘community service’, or ‘empathy’. These things not only are what guide you in your leadership, but in how you conduct yourself in other areas of your life. They are values that are difficult, if not impossible for you to compromise on when push comes to shove. Authentic leadership and these principles also guide your decision-making and how you interact with people, so you can see what an important aspect of leadership it is.
Core values are….difficult, if not impossible for you to compromise on when push comes to shove
A great summary of the 4 key characteristics of authentic leadership was put forward by Kevin Kruse in an article for Forbes Magazine, and give more context to how successful people lead authentically:
They are self-aware and genuine
They are mission-driven and results-focused
They lead with their heart
They focus on long term
Authentic leadership can also learned. Just like Carol Dweck’s findings in her excellent book: “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, the best and most effective leadership can be developed, and worked on rather than just a genetic blessing. In fact, given the changing nature of business, it’s almost mandatory that an effective, authentic leader be open to learning and adaptation in their leadership skills in order to provide successful leadership support. If you are an introvert, don’t despair! You can learn to be a strong, assertive leader without compromising who you are. And you can see how developing your authentic leadership style does not necessarily mean compromising your core values.
What is authenticity NOT? It is not “being yourself”, and this is an important point to make, because it’s the first thing people say when asked what they think authenticity is. Being yourself ignores the impact you, your words and your actions can have on the well being of others and of your organization, and I would argue that this is a cornerstone of leadership.
For example, if you are generally an extremely direct, plain-speaking person, being an authentic leader is NOT speaking your mind no matter what. After all, leadership is about leading PEOPLE, and people need to be listened to, supported and guided. With this in mind, we could add empathy to the list of characteristics of a great, authentic leader.
So, in summary, becoming a strong, authentic leader on one hand means highlighting and maintaining your core values, but on the other hand means adapting your personal management style, and learning how to meet the needs of your employees and other stakeholders.
STAY WELL, STAY SAFE!
As an executive coach, Deborah brings over 15 years of international marketing & business experience working on brands such as Pepsi, Effem Foods, FedEx, Nike, Scotiabank and Toronto Eaton Centre. This experience is uniquely married with over 12 years of high performance endurance athletic racing & coaching (Ironman triathlon) producing a fresh, exciting and energetic approach to coaching.
Throughout her career, her focus has been on strategic planning, problem-solving and motivational team-building, all complemented by an innovative, creative mind & and an excellent client service ethic.
Throughout the coaching process, Deborah has a laser focus on her clients’ goals, providing individuals and groups with common-sense strategies & tools to guide them to success in the most efficient way possible, all delivered with empathy.
A mother of 3, and a 2-time Ironman World Championship finisher, Deborah is based in Toronto, Canada.