Authenticity can not only improve the quality of your interpersonal relationships but also your performance as a leader. Someone who is authentic is open and honest, transparent in one’s intentions and expectations, and practices his/her values consistently.1 Authentic leaders are genuine and true, and have a vision of success that is wholesome and optimistic. They also understand the importance of leading through demonstration and collaboration, rather than barking orders and demanding results. Truly authentic leaders translate words into actions – they stick to their convictions and set forth an operational plan in order to achieve better business results.
Authentic Leadership is a relatively new theory of leadership that originally stemmed from the four cardinal virtues of ancient Greek philosophy2. These virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude, and have molded the modern theory of authentic leadership to comprise four key elements:
- Balanced Processing (prudence): Authentic leaders keep an open mind to all possible courses of action so as to be fair-minded when making decisions, and lead open discussions with others to choose the best possible option.
- Self-Awareness (temperance): In order to be an authentic leader, it is important to be emotionally balanced and in control, and to know one’s own strengths and limitations.
- Relational Transparency (justice): Authentic leaders do not have hidden agendas, and are fair in their dealings with others.
- Internalized Moral Perspective (fortitude): Simply put, authentic leaders place great attention on ethical consideration and have the courage to do the right thing.
Below are some “do’s” and “don’ts” of authentic leaders, for your reference.3
- Speak the truth
- Care about others
- Have a rich moral fiber
- Treat people with respect and dignity
- Build teams and create communities
- Focus on results, and are mission-driven
- Own up to their mistakes
- Use their words to hurt the feelings of others
- Put their own needs before the needs of others
- Cut corners to get ahead
- Treat others as inferior
- Work independently of others
- Put their own self-interest ahead of the goals of the organization
- Use defensive strategies to protect their ego
These virtues of authentic leaders lead to concrete business results because they enable a relationship between leaders and team members built on trust1. The role of the authentic leader is to encourage and motivate others, and keep team members on track with operational goals by instilling a shared mission, and outlining marginal steps to achieving success. When team leaders are authentic and true, the rest of the team is willing and eager to go the extra mile.
- George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A.N., & Mayer, D. (2007, February). Discovering Your Authentic Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2007/02/discovering-your-authentic-leadership
- Riggio, R. (2014, January). What Is Authentic Leadership? Do You Have It? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201401/what-is-authentic-leadership-do-you-have-it
- Sharma, R. (2009). 10 Things Authentic Leaders Do. Holden Leadership Center. Retrieved from http://leadership.uoregon.edu/resources/exercises_tips/leadership_reflections/10_things_authentic_leaders_do