Authentic leadership is a leadership or management style that talks about transparent, self-aware, honest, and genuine leaders.
Authentic leaders lead by channelizing loyalty and trust in their team members by consistently showing who they are as human beings and how they feel about their team’s performance. Authentic leaders possess and portray consistency, integrity, self-awareness, relational transparency, and concentration on long-term results.
What is Authentic Leadership?
Authentic leadership is a leadership theory that suggests leaders to be- honest, self-aware, transparent, and genuine- to inspire trust and motivation in their team members/subordinates while leading them.
It is a type of management style in which a leader is described as honest, open with others, and aware of their shortcomings and strengths. Authentic leadership emphasizes the need to be “human” rather than an all-knowing expert. They carry an open mind about both sides of an argument, listen to their employees’ opinions, and make responsible decisions together. Authentic leaders understand others’ perceptions and comprise the power of acceptance as well.
Authentic leadership is a highly sought-after leadership role, both by managers and by subordinates alike. It leads to better productivity among teams and a supportive work environment. Research too supports that authentic leadership serves as one of the strongest predictors of an employee’s job satisfaction, efficiency, commitment to a company, and workplace happiness.
Characteristics of Authentic Leaders
10 truly important characteristics that are often seen in authentic leaders are-
- Being self-aware
- Leading with heart
- Having integrity
- Focussing on long-term results
- Leading with vision
- Drawing an experience
- Having consistency
- Good listening skills
- Sharing success with the team
Components of Authentic Leadership
A CEO or hr executive can comprise four basic and important leadership components that develop an authentic leadership style that channelizes positive and ethical organizational behaviours in an organization and they are-
Self-awareness means a complete and honest awareness of oneself. This can include a person’s understanding of their skills, abilities, emotions, perspectives, biases, strengths, and weaknesses. E.g., an authentic leader would embrace that they have anger issues, so they should refrain from arguing with others.
This paves the way for effectively dealing with work as one is aware of what they can contribute or pass on to others to contribute. In such a way, an authentic leader can lead others to realize too that everyone has their strengths and shortcomings. Such leaders do not fake it under situations where they do not understand a task or cannot help subordinates with knowledge. They accept that everyone brings something to the table and lets them all have equal take-in tasks while doing what they do best.
They can share their needs through an open channel of communication. This instills a sense of trust and empathy among employees or team members, so they can admit to their mistakes, contribute good ideas and take feedback. This quality of authentic leaders would include self-reflection, constructive criticism, feedback, and openness to express their thoughts.
2. Openness and Balance
Authentic leaders maintain a good balance between taking in criticism and supporting employees while doing a particular task. Rather than simply ordering them around, authentic leaders and their subordinates discuss what works and what doesn’t work to reach a conclusion that satisfies everyone’s viewpoints.
They share and listen to supporting and opposing opinions, rather than silencing others for the difference of views. It is a task for both the leaders as well as the employees to encourage such discussions. This can help shed light on flaws in thinking, illuminate another perspective, and inspire new united ideas. The whole team would then evaluate all possibilities and reach a decision that results in the best outcome.
This ensures that employees feel valued and understand why a task has to be done in a particular way. They do not have to be stuck taking orders, and neither does an authentic leader has to simply make all the decisions and give out orders. This authentic leadership element involves openness, listening skills, honesty, equality of opinions, and understanding of diverse points of view.
3. Relational Transparency
Authentic leaders must be transparent in their work and maintain honest relationships with their workers. Straightforward instructions, bitter but honest opinions, and precise tasks are all elements of this factor. Sarcasm, passive-aggressive remarks, doing things behind someone’s back, spreading rumours are not exercised when leaders and employees are transparent.
Authentic leaders are candid about their feelings as well as ask employees to share their thoughts fearlessly. Honesty should not be punished even when there is a difference of opinions, as employees will fear being frank in the future. Transparency also comes when one has to critique someone’s work or admit to their fault. Rather than instilling guilt, authentic leaders steer away from making employees feel embarrassed by offering constructive feedback to team members at fault. This helps them understand how they went wrong, what they can do when faced with such a situation in the future.
This helps them learn from their mistakes rather than feel guilty and refrain from taking the initiative in other projects. This applies in the case of leaders making a mistake as well. By instilling a sense of equality and openness, employees too can point out the shortcomings of their leaders, which the leaders themselves did not notice. Hence, an authentic leader leads by example, treats everyone with equality, and fosters transparency among all team members and between all the organization’s employees as a whole.
4. Internalized Moral Perspective
This component of authentic leadership refers to “doing the right thing”. Authentic leaders prioritize the company’s and customer’s values, along with focusing on long-term goals. So, authentic leaders have a strong moral compass and do not sell out to cheap schemes or morally corrupt shortcuts for small short-term gains at the expense of long-term goals.
Authentic leaders engage in tasks that stand for strong values and align with the company’s ethics. These might involve fairness and loyalty to their customers, equality among all employees, transparency in product ingredients, not making false product claims, etc. E.g.- not to overprice a popular product to increase sales. Moreover, in regards to their work, authentic leaders put the values and needs of their company first rather than diverting down tempting paths.
Their priority is not exercising their power or feeding their ego, but rather the organization’s success and guiding its employees to work to the best of their abilities. This involves integrity, reliability, hard work, patience, and perseverance. Hence, authentic leadership is much about leading with your heart as much as with your brain.
5 Easy Steps to Practice Authentic Leadership
To be an authentic leader that followers trust and stay loyal to, it is crucial to follow these 5 steps
1. Practicing self-awareness
As discussed above, authentic leaders have to have the characteristics of being self-aware, as it empowers them to be more effective and ethical while leading people.
2. Identifying your values
An authentic leader needs to know their values, thought process, and belief system to be true to the core, as people believe in a leader who is transparent about their different values and thinking styles.
3. Leading by example
When leaders lead by example, they seem to be more inspiring and they gain more trust and loyalty from colleagues and team members.
4. Sharpening your communication skills
Leaders who have good communication skills are great at sharing and understanding the behavioural insights of others. They also appreciate better career growth as a leader.
5. Finding and using a trustworthy mentor
Constantly excelling in any field is inevitable to channel growth, and leaders should also have a trustworthy mentor who can recognize their upsides and downsides to optimize their leading potential and relevancy.
While authentic leadership seems like a concept that is common sense, it is surprising what a toll the leadership position can take on a person’s character, behavior, and efficiency. This management style points out the importance of being true to oneself while guiding others to be so too. It is a type of leadership that extends beyond the role of managing others and guiding action.
Authentic leadership allows managers and employees to guide themselves when no one is there to tell them what to say or do. In this regard, it opens avenues for personal growth and improvements beyond the job-related requirements. It places importance on the values of honesty, sincerity, trust, and authenticity at work.
It is tough to describe what authenticity to a person really means until they unlock it themselves. This type of leadership is the key to being a reliable guide who leads by example and lets others guide themselves as well.
How effective do you find authentic leadership in leading people towards their goals?
Pinky is an MBA in Marketing from the University of Mumbai. She loves helping people out in learning Marketing and sharing latest ideas and tactics for growing businesses.