The Authentic Leader

It’s a big trend- one I’m thrilled about- the idea of the Authentic Leader.  What does it mean?

First I’ll start with what it isn’t.  It is not someone who is looking out for number one (themselves) at the exclusion of others.  It isn’t someone who follows trends while abandoning their own principles.  It isn’t a people pleaser.  It isn’t someone who withholds information for power, or is afraid to be vulnerable. 

Being authentic means that you know you are capable and worthy and therefore are willing to be seen.  You have great self-awareness, and you know your values and operate within them.  (see my post on Integrity) So why capable and worthy?  When we are less than competent or capable, we waste a great deal of energy trying to ‘look’ the part or learn the part.  It’s fine to know you can handle this, but may need help, or you can manage this and have skills to learn- those make you capable.  Worthy means you know you belong.  If you’re fighting the ‘belong’ feeling, you’re wasting time and energy on proving yourself.   We often refer to this as the imposter syndrome.   For the purposes of this blog, let’s assume that your superiors knew what they were doing when they placed you – and you are capable and worthy of the task.

So being authentic means that you allow your manager, peers and subordinates to see you.  This means what you do know, what you don’t know, and what you are unsure of.  It means you are willing to show emotion, when you are struggling, and ask for help.  It also means you steward your post.  You delegate and trust as appropriate.  A former leader I enjoyed shared “I’ll tell you what I do know, what I don’t know, and I’ll tell you if I know something, but I can’t share it yet” How refreshing!

Too many leaders play ‘tough guy’ (this includes you too ladies!) and pretend they know all, never make mistakes and don’t have feelings, because that would make them weak.  All that it shows is that you’re either a sociopath, arrogant, or clueless.   (Last I checked, none of those were a great leader attribute) 

So how do we get there? It takes some self-knowledge, testing, and planning- and knowing what is appropriate.  When I lead workshops, I prep my leaders for introductions.   I let them know I am going to call on them first, as all others will take their cues from them.  I want them to be real, and comfortable but go a bit beyond all business.  People grow from connection and having something in common.  So, what can they provide that will allow others to relate to them?  Maybe it’s sharing a hobby, or their favorite vacation spot or binge television program.  Then people see a bit of the real you- the Authentic Leader.

Stay tuned for more information on Authentic Leaders- and consider enrolling in my upcoming Authentic Leadership Bootcamp beginning March 1.  My colleague, Dave Walker and I will be running our inclusive group through a step-by-step process to reveal their own leadership traits, strengths, values and how that plays into their toolkit as an Authentic Leader.  Email me for more information or check out the PDF flyer here.