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What is Authentic Leadership and How to Practice it?
By Jenn DeWall Confidence and Leadership Coach & Keynote Speaker & Trainer.
“We are constantly invited to be who we are.” - Henry David Thoreau.
When we start out in our careers, it can be tempting to model ourselves after someone we admire, wear similar clothing styles, or even start mirroring their patterns of speech or hand gestures. While this is a normal part of figuring out who we are and how we want to show up at work, in the end, you can’t fake your way to being a leader. Authenticity is one of a leader’s most valuable traits, so what is it?
Authenticity is when we have a healthy balance between our values and our actual behavior. To be an authentic leader is to find your own way of communicating, making decisions, and managing others without compromising your ethics, values or personality. When leaders let their authentic selves shine through, they are more likely to have engaged and enthusiastic employees! So what makes an authentic leader?
Self-Awareness – A key part of being authentic is understanding what you care about most. What are your values, likes, and dislikes? Getting to know yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses is some of the most important work a leader can do.
Trust and Respect – Authentic leaders are not only trustworthy themselves, but they can trust and respect others. By demonstrating honesty and transparency, authentic leaders inspire that behavior in their teams.
Empathy and Integrity - Authentic leaders make difficult decisions with empathy and integrity. They support their teams while remaining committed to doing the right thing.
Calm and Confident – How would you feel if you could say what you meant, act according to your highest values and support others in a meaningful way? It would feel pretty great, right? Authentic leaders are confident in themselves and less stressed out because they aren’t trying to be anything they are not!
How to Practice Being an Authentic Leader
Authentic leadership is more of a journey than a destination. Learning to express yourself as you truly are in the world today is not easy! Authenticity is something that we have to make a conscious decision to work on every day. Getting to know ourselves is the first step.
Identify Your Core Values – Spend some time really thinking about what is important to you. Make a list of values that are important to you. Consider people you admire, and think about the values they exhibit that resonate most with you. Do you value ambition? Curiosity? Fairness? Honesty?
Communicate with Honesty – Practice saying what you mean while respecting other people’s feelings. This is not always easy! Communicating honestly also means keeping your promises. An authentic leader’s word is their bond. If you say you will be somewhere at a certain time— be there. If you commit to delivering a project by a certain deadline— follow through. Never make a promise you can’t keep.
Manage Your Emotions — Emotional intelligence is a big part of authentic leadership. Some people mistake being honest about their feelings for being allowed to be a jerk. Living authentically requires being in touch with your emotions and managing them in a healthy way, not taking them out on others. It also means learning to recognize emotions in others and treating them with courtesy and respect.
Want to learn more about how to be an authentic leader? Connect with me today!
Jenn DeWall is a leadership and career coach, leadership keynote speaker, facilitator, trainer, and podcast host. Jenn is a Millennial leadership expert based in Denver, CO.