Five Characteristics of Authentic Leaders

Five Characteristics of Authentic Leaders

Authenticity has become a buzzword over the past decade or so. But what does authentic leadership mean? And why should you care about practicing authentic leadership?

The term “authentic leadership” was coined by Bill George in his 2003 book Authentic Leadership. It means being honest, transparent, direct, and caring. Many leaders today claim to be practicing authentic leadership, even though they don’t always live up to their claims.

Authentic Leadership & How To Practice It

Authenticity isn” t just a way of acting. It’s an attitude—an attitude that drives you, an attitude that inspires you, an attitude that sets you apart. We teach leaders to become authentic because we know authenticity makes for better employees, better clients, greater business results, and better life experiences.

Authenticity means more than being open and honest; it’s much more than merely telling the truth. It’s also showing respect, being self-aware, keeping promises, building trust, and having integrity.

Leaders who practice authentic leadership develop strong relationships with everyone they meet. Their words and actions inspire confidence and loyalty and create positive outcomes for themselves and those around them. When people feel respected, heard, valued, included, and supported — when they sense that their opinions matter — their performance improves, and they experience higher levels of motivation and engagement.

Authentic leaders lead by example – they model behaviors that reflect their values and beliefs. They treat each person with dignity and respect, regardless of where they fit in the organisation’s hierarchy. Leaders who demonstrate genuine care for others often find that people respond positively and willingly follow their direction.

The reason authentic leadership is so important?

When we let our emotions run wild, we lose control. We become impulsive, irrational, and sometimes even downright crazy. But when we learn how to harness our emotions for positive change, we gain self-control and make better decisions.

Most of us are taught to suppress our feelings because we’re afraid we won’t be liked if we show them. This fear often prevents us from expressing ourselves authentically. So we keep our thoughts bottled up inside, which results in emotional instability and poor decision-making.

But as leaders, we need to recognise our emotions and those of our team members. We need to be able to identify them to lead effectively. If we cannot manage emotions well, we cannot lead effectively.

Authentic leadership requires three key elements: authenticity, empathy, and vulnerability. 

Authenticity means showing others our real selves—our true feelings, values, beliefs, hopes, dreams, fears, and attitudes. 

Empathy means understanding others’ perspectives and experiences. Vulnerability means sharing our vulnerabilities with others. 

Without these essential qualities, we cannot connect with others and motivate them.

To develop an authentic style of leadership, we need to practice authenticity. As we do, we begin to feel more secure because we trust ourselves and know that we can express our true feelings without risking rejection. This allows us to move beyond fear and anxiety and experience greater confidence and compassion toward our fellow human beings.

In addition to practicing authenticity, we also need to apply empathy. To empathise, we must put ourselves in others’ shoes. We must ask questions such as “How would I feel if I had been in their situation?” and “What might I say to help them?” By adopting this approach, we can understand others’ feelings and motivations. Because we care about them, we are much more likely to act in beneficial ways.

Finally, we need to demonstrate vulnerability. This involves showing others our innermost thoughts and feelings. For example, we may admit that we don’t know exactly what someone thinks or feels or where they stand on a particular issue. By revealing our vulnerabilities, we permit others to share theirs.

The more we practice these skills, the stronger they grow. Over time, we will develop a strong sense of self-confidence. Our relationships will improve, and we’ll enjoy positive interactions with others.

Five Characteristics of Authentic Leaders

#1. Self Awareness

A leader is someone who takes responsibility for their actions. A leader doesn’t blame circumstances, people, or systems for mistakes he makes. He accepts full responsibility for all of them, including the ones he shouldn’t have made.

The most successful leaders are also self-aware. They recognise when making decisions based on emotions rather than facts, stop themselves before they do damage, and learn how to deal with setbacks.

These leaders aren’t afraid to make mistakes because they know they’ll learn from them. They embrace them as an opportunity to grow. That’s why they’re often the best mentors for others.

Self-awareness isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength. Because it allows us to identify our strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly, we become better leaders.

#2. Integrity

A leader with integrity stands for something bigger than themselves. They have a set of principles and ethics that guide them throughout life.

They do the right thing because it is right, rather than simply following tradition.

Integrity is the foundation upon which trust is built. Without integrity, there is no trust.

The best leaders inspire their team to follow them because they lead by example.

#3. Empathy

Leaders who show empathy care about other people. They listen carefully to understand what others are feeling.

Many leaders think they’re doing this, but research shows they spend little time listening to others. They assume they know what others are thinking.

Empathy helps leaders connect better with their team members. It enables them to communicate effectively. However, it requires a lot of effort. Leaders who show empathy are typically very humble. They rarely boast about their accomplishments. Instead, they focus on helping others succeed. They encourage team members to share their knowledge and experience.

People admire leaders who demonstrate empathy toward others. They respect them. While it may seem difficult to do, leaders who genuinely care about their employees are admired by all.

#4. Humility

As a leader, you must ensure that your actions reflect your words. This means that you cannot be arrogant, show egotism or behave arrogantly and expect people to follow you.

Humility allows you to admit when you are wrong and seek forgiveness for any mistakes you may have made. 

You could say that humility is an essential ingredient for success. So, how do you become more humble? There are two ways:

1. Admit when you are wrong. If you are quick to defend yourself, you will likely hide your flaws. When you own up to your faults, you learn to be more self-aware.

2. Take responsibility. Look for opportunities to share credit rather than blame others. Being honest will help you grow as a person.

The most important thing about humility is that it prevents you from becoming too proud. Pride blinds us to our failings. We fail to realise that we are fallible and unable to lead well.

Humility keeps our eyes focused on ourselves, which makes it harder for us to spot errors in judgment. Remember that you are human and subject to error.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are human. There is much strength in acknowledging your weaknesses. It shows that you are capable of change and growth.

#5. Accountability

Accountability means taking responsibility for results and actions. It involves ownership and commitment. Leaders hold themselves accountable for achieving results and making decisions.

Leaders are responsible for ensuring that objectives are met. This includes setting goals, planning strategies, implementing plans, and measuring progress.

Accountability also implies that leaders know how their teams and organisations work and what influences performance. As a result, leaders help employees make better choices about achieving those goals.

In short, accountability means that leaders set standards for themselves and the people they lead.

Building an authentic leadership style

When developing your authentic leadership style, there are many things to consider, such as: 

What does authenticity mean to me? 

How am I leading others? 

Am I authentic in my relationships? 

Do I care about my team members? D

Does everyone on my team agree with my decisions? 

And so much more.

Here are five key questions every leader needs to ask themselves to ensure they develop an authentic leadership style.

What do I value?

This question helps us understand our values and beliefs. We should align our actions and behaviors with our core values. It helps us to identify what matters most to us and what we stand for. Authentic leaders share these same core values and beliefs with their teams.

How do I lead?

Leadership isn’t necessarily about telling people what to do. Instead, it’s about inspiring, guiding, encouraging, supporting, challenging, and empowering those below you. Leaders are comfortable sharing their opinions and don’t hesitate to speak up, regardless of whether or not their opinion differs from another person’s. They encourage employees to share their thoughts and ideas and provide necessary feedback. Leaders are also committed to helping their teams grow and achieve success.

Am I authentic?

You are being authentic when speaking the truth. Being authentic means you say what you believe and act according to your character. If you aren’t being honest with yourself, you won’t be able to guide others effectively.

Do I care about my team?

We often forget about the importance of caring for teammates. Caring for your team begins with treating each member fairly. This means offering constructive criticism and listening to their suggestions. Leaders listen to their teams, acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, and celebrate them whenever possible.

Does everyone on my team agree?

It takes courage to disagree with others. But it’s essential to maintain open lines of communication and trust between leaders and their teams. Disagreements shouldn’t be a source of conflict among coworkers. Leaders should address disagreements and conflicts openly, honestly, and constructively. No matter what happens, leaders should strive to resolve any issues quickly and appropriately.

As a leader, you should continually assess yourself and seek feedback from others to learn from mistakes and improve your leadership abilities. You should also find opportunities to teach and mentor others. There’s nothing better than seeing someone else succeed – especially if it was due to your efforts.

Key Points

Leading authentically involves a variety of skills and characteristics. The journey is as important as the destination.

Authentic leaders don’t always fit into neat categories. But they all share certain characteristics. They know themselves well; they never let anyone dictate their morals; they put their companies and their people first; they communicate effectively and know when to wield power appropriately.