When it comes to leadership styles in management, there is one that is on everybody’s lips right now. Yes, that’s right; it’s Authentic Leadership, and it is quite a departure from what we have known before. In fact, Authentic Leadership is all about leading by nurturing, listening to, and appreciating those working under us. In this way, it is the quintessential human-centred approach to leadership.
Of course, this is so important to business in the modern market, because this management approach has been found to boost team performance effectively. It also increases productivity, happiness and satisfaction of the individual as well. Which obviously can only be a good thing for business productivity, efficiency and ultimately profit.
It is also worth highlighting that it is a much more inclusive and compassionate way of leading a business that matches well with our modern sentiments. One that is based on positive relationships and the character of the leader, rather than anything else.
The Traits of Authentic Leaders
Online you will find a variety of authentic leadership traits discussed. However, most can be boiled down into five key categories: purpose, values, self-discipline, heart, and relationships. Each of which is discussed in detail in the sections below.
An excellent place to start when it comes to AL is purpose. After all, a good leader needs to understand how to motivate themselves and others. In fact, in this way purpose can be split into two main categories. The leader’s awareness of their own purpose and motivations, and their ability to convey and use this vision with others for ultimate long term success.
To that end, those practising Authentic Leaderships need to be aware of their own purpose and motivations in life. Which is something that can be a lot more complicated than it first appears. In fact, it can often take a lot of self-development work to realise what things in life genuinely act as motivators for us, and which of these we want to continue to foster.
After all, motivations may come in the form of external factors such as respect, status, or wealth, or internal ones, including meaning, enjoyment, and balance. Of course, traditionally in the business world, the former has been valued over the later. Although authentic leaders will recognise the importance of internal motivating factors and the need to combine them with the former.
When it comes to inspiring purpose in others, Authentic Leaders need to focus on what will affect the long term success of a project. Of course, this will include the wellbeing, both personal and professional of the employees in their team. Something that means those practising Authentic Leadership need to balance demands for high-level performance with valuing and listen to those working under them.
In fact, in this way, an AL can help to create the best environment for success, and so ensure not only the wellbeing of their team but the projects long term success as well.
An AL leader also needs to demonstrate they have excellent values, and they will stick to these when working with others.
In particular, integrity is crucial because it helps to earn them the trust of their team. Of course, integrity means being honest and doing what we promise. Thus demonstrating that we can be trusted and relied upon no matter what the situation.
Openness is also an impost value for authentic leaders to show, as it too encourages trust. To that end, putting on a mask or performance for work is something that authentic leaders avoid at all costs. Instead, investing time into being genuine, warts and all.
Lastly, when it comes to values, authentic leaders are consistent. That means their values guide their behaviour rather than their mood. Something that can make it much easier for those in their team to strike up a rapport with them, and form positive and productive relationships.
A successful AL is also one that can demonstrate self-discipline. Although, it may not always be in the way those in the field of business would expect.
In fact, there is evidence to suggest that being disciplined in maintaining a work-life balance is just as important as staying late every night.
A real life example of this being Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Who despite being worth a cool billion dollars, and being active in the areas of equality and social advocacy, still highlights the vital importance to her own well being and ability to succeed that spending time with her family providers her.
Heart is another vital characteristic that authentic leaders require. In fact, heart can be defined in several ways, including leading in a way that truly connects with those on their team, and offers them what they need emotionally to push through to success.
A great example of a leader with this quality being Candice Morgan Head of Inclusion of Pinterest. In fact, Morgan demonstrates emotional awareness of what her teams need, even in the onboarding stages, with issues such as imposter syndrome and belonging addressed as part of the company’s induction. Something that can help to reduce such worries in team members and ensure they do not get in the way of their wellbeing or success at work.
Heart in those practising Authentic Leadership can also refer to the courage that managers have to show by doing the work of knowing and evaluating themselves. After all, it isn’t always easy to discover we aren’t quite as good at something as we thought.
However, it is through such self-evaluation that we can come to a better understanding of who we are. This then allows us to be flexible enough in our self-image to be vulnerable and wrong on occasions. Something that can better help demonstrate our authenticity to those we manage and improve the relationship and communication we have with those under us.
Speaking of relationships, the ability to forge and maintain them is essential to any useful AL. Of course, this requires many separate skills, one of which is to be able to really listen to what your team is telling you. Something that can be tough on leaders if they have not thought of that possibility.
Additionally, in forging a productive relationship with those in your team, you must acknowledge the part they play in the success of your project. In fact, leaders that hog the praise and success for themselves are the antithesis of authentic. Therefore anyone looking to practice a more Authentic Leadership approach needs to (in addition to the traits above) be willing to share credit with their team.
In today’s workplace, can you afford to ignore the benefits of Authentic Leadership? In addition to embracing the advice in this article, read about our leadership and management courses, which can help give you the practical tools and techniques to make genuine change in your workplace.