How to be an authentic leader

As a leader, being authentic is one of the most important traits you can have.  Being open, honest and real with your team shows them you’re willing to be vulnerable when working together. When you build that trust with your team, you allow them to build positive relationships with you. It promotes an attitude of respect from your team, and allows them to be more committed, creative, engaged and perform better.

Being authentic means you’re a bona fide leader, valid and veritable. You don’t beat around the bush when it comes to strategic decisions and your employees can trust you to do what’s best for the team and the company.

So, how do you become a more authentic leader?

Act with Integrity

Don’t fuel the rumour mill and participate in gossip. Gossip leads to a slippery slope of unwarranted drama amongst employees, inciting fear and suspicion on the team.

Sarcasm can be a little contentious. I have a very sarcastic sense of humour, but it only comes out with my family and close friends who know me well enough not to take offense to that humour. In a professional setting, sarcasm can be interpreted as dishonest. Gossip, rumours and sarcasm chip away at your integrity and don’t help in strengthening your leadership.

Be honest and humble with your successes. When getting credit for your successes, accept it and share the credit with anyone else who helped you. Share the wealth with your team so they don’t feel resentful about not getting acknowledged for the hard work they put in.

Promote Trust

Deliver a consistent, accurate message regardless of your audience. Stay true and strong to your message – don’t say one thing to one person, while saying something completely different to another person. That fickleness will eventually come back to you.

Remember: your team members don’t work in solitude. They talk to each other and any inconsistencies in your message will be circulated.

Make commitments you can keep. This is easier said than done, but it means being honest with yourself about what you and your team have the capacity to take on.

Finally, take trust seriously. Protect confidential or personal information. If you do share any sensitive information with team members, ensure you review your organization’s policies regarding such information.

Admit Mistakes

We all make mistakes. And there’s a level of understanding for those who are courageous enough to admit their mistakes.  Being honest about your mistakes is the best way to mitigate them.

This means you tactfully admit when you can’t fully deliver on a commitment that in hindsight, you probably shouldn’t have taken on. If you realize you can’t meet a commitment, immediately inform those it affects. Be open about your shortcomings. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a capable leader, it means you know your limits and would rather put out a project that is high quality than something mediocre.

Share Your Thoughts

Give full, honest answers to tough questions while staying as positive as possible. Don’t try to sugarcoat or avoid a topic. If you can’t go into details for confidentiality reasons, explain why.

But also, stand up for what you believe is right. Contribute to the conversation by sharing your feelings and rationale when appropriate. Don’t be afraid if your perspective doesn’t have support from other leaders. As they say, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.

Display Confidence Without Arrogance

Confidence is important in leadership, but not many leaders have it. Try using nonverbal signals like eye contact, body language, or tone of voice to support your message.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between confidence and arrogance. If you can portray confidence while following the tips in this post, you are well on your way to enhancing authenticity as a leader.

1 The Effect of Authentic Leadership on Employee Trust and Employee Engagement
2 Shaw Foundations of Leadership Certificate program