The Role of Authentic Leadership in Building Trust and Inspiring High-Performing Teams was originally published on Ivy Exec.
Perhaps you admire a famous leader’s direct communication style or academic speaking style. So, you adopt their habits.
But these characteristics you admire don’t come naturally to you. After months of pretending, you’re exhausted by trying to act like someone you’re not.
So, you decide to adopt an authentic leadership style. A highly-prized way of managing others, authentic leadership revolves around using your values, integrity, and sincere personality in your executive role.
“Authentic leadership’s key differentiator is the motivation behind it. An authentic leader strives to create a meaningful relationship with their team as they work toward goals related to their organization’s mission and purpose – not just its bottom line,” said Matt Gavin for Harvard Business School Online.
This article discusses the characteristics of authentic leadership and the benefits of values-based management.
Qualities of Authentic Leaders
Bill George introduced the theory of authentic leadership in his 2003 book of that same title.
He wrote that strong leaders know who they are and act similarly at home and work.
He also outlined five qualities authentic leaders have. These include:
- Values. Authentic leaders know what matters to them and stick to their guns, even if this might sometimes make them unpopular. They also demonstrate their values across situations. Conveying your values and acting in accordance with them builds trust in those around you.
- Purpose and passion. Authentic leaders know why they work and how the work they’re doing contributes to this feeling. In turn, they are passionate about knowing their employees and motivating them to work more effectively.
- Self-discipline and consistency. Authentic leaders are internally driven and “maintain a consistent pace towards those goals,” explains Sarah K. White for CIO. They also are regularly calm and collected, moving towards solutions rather than dwelling on setbacks.
- Strong relationships. Authentic leaders get to know their teams beyond the surface level. These leaders connect with employees by “listening to them, allowing them to share their experiences, and having open lines of communication.”
- Compassion. Authentic leaders care about their teams and want them to be successful. This attitude should be meaningfully deployed, too. For instance, leaders could find ways to make their employees less stressed by moving their deadlines.
Can I Really Be Myself at Work?
Of course, some people can more easily bring their “authentic selves” to work.
Straight, White men may find it easier to be themselves at work than women and minorities do, for instance.
Professor Tina Opie, who studies authentic leadership, talks about how other qualities may be less welcome at work. As a Black woman from the South, she has faced her share of struggles in being an authentic leader.
For instance, she was criticized for being overly direct at points in her career.
How can everyone find ways to be more authentic at work? Opie suggests understanding your audience. When it comes to her directness, for instance, she considers how honest she should be.
“If you ask me and you tell me you really want to hear what I think, I’m going to be super direct, and they know that now, people know that about me, and for some reason, people like that. Because I actually think if we could adjust the culture and workplaces to where direct with kindness was valued as opposed to indirect which doesn’t necessarily have a kind intention behind it,” she said on the HBR’s podcast “Why Authentic Leadership Is So Hard.”
What’s more, she talked about how being authentic doesn’t mean being the worst version of yourself. For instance, you may “authentically” get angry when confronted with difficult tasks. However, you don’t want to show this side of yourself at work just because it’s real. Instead, you want to live your values – not just put your natural tendencies on display.
Benefits of Authentic Leadership
Being yourself boosts team performance and makes workplaces better for diverse employees.
Research shows that authentic leadership has an impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
“The researchers’ primary finding was that authentic leadership influences employees’ feelings of inclusion such that displays of authentic leadership are predictive of employee inclusion,” said Deloitte.
In turn, employees felt like they were more valued by their organizations and exhibited behaviors like “altruism, conscientiousness, sportsmanship, courtesy, and civic virtue.”
Authentic leaders also welcome less-than-positive conversations with their employees. For instance, if you develop a culture where your team members can come to you with concerns, you’re likely to reduce low productivity and turnover.
“Authentic leadership is important for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts because employees need to feel safe at work and comfortable speaking up if they experience or witness a threatening situation or microaggression in the workplace,” said White.
Becoming a More Authentic Leader
Authentic leadership can make you a stronger, more compassionate leader.
By embracing your values and connecting with your team on more than the bottom line, you can also improve team culture and performance.
Want to learn more about authentic leadership? “3 Strategies for Authentic and Decisive Leadership” from Roger Delves, dean at Hult International Business School.