The 4 Components of Authentic Leadership

It goes without saying that being yourself is a lot easier than being someone you aren’t. However, when pressure rises, the stakes of decisions increase, and there is a surefire judgment from others; being authentic becomes infinitely more difficult for leaders. Those leaders who can be authentic in the face of adversity stand out above the rest. 

Those leaders who are authentic in the face of adversity stand out above the rest. 

In my work studying and coaching leaders, authenticity is one of the most essential leadership skills that doesn’t get discussed enough. To take it a step further, too many leaders are trying to be something or someone they aren’t, and their team knows it.  

Too many leaders are trying to be something or someone they aren’t, and their team knows it. 

What is Authenticity as a Leadership Skill?

In the SkillsLoft assessment, we define authenticity as being transparent, genuine, and honest. Living according to your beliefs and values. It comes of Greek origin that means genuine. 

Brene Brown said, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” Not only are Brown’s words wise, but I would add to them. “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are and who we are trying to become.” If more leaders started with the mindset that the truth about who they are and what they are about will eventually come out, they would be themselves much earlier in their journey. 

In the end, the truth comes out; you might as well be your authentic self from the start. 

People follow people, not titles. Being an authentic leader who shares truth, passions, and even shortcomings will have people following you and not the other way around.  

Components of Authentic Leadership 

Transforming yourself from an inauthentic leader to an authentic leader isn’t easy. However, big changes always start small. There is a simple model that we coach professionals to use to determine if their authentic self is showing up in their leadership. It includes four components. 

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1. What You Stand For

If you go back to the definition of authenticity, “Being transparent, genuine, and honest. Living according to your beliefs and values.” I want to focus on two elements: our beliefs and values.  

Knowing your beliefs is critical because your beliefs become your behaviors. Napoleon Hill used to say, “whatever the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve.” Your core values are the fundamental beliefs you hold to be true. For example, in our Catalyst for Growth Program, one of the first personal development exercises professionals complete is putting definitions around their beliefs and core values. It never ceases to amaze me how many people haven’t put the effort to define them. 

2. How You Show Up

The two elements of authenticity relating to how you show up are self-awareness and vulnerability. If you have ever worked for or with a narcissistic leader, you know about someone who lacks self-awareness. Being self-aware is a skill, and it’s developed through being in vulnerable positions that expose the truth.  

Being self-aware is a skill, and it’s developed through being in vulnerable positions that expose the truth.  

Exercises like a leadership 360 °can be an excellent way to increase self-awareness and demonstrate vulnerability to team members.  

3. When You’re At Your Best

It’s difficult to be authentic if your current role doesn’t allow you to be at your best. I am amazed at how many professionals do jobs for years that they aren’t good at and don’t like. The two elements to consider around this are your skills and passions.  

There are phenomenal resources and assessments out there for leaders to explore their strengths and weaknesses as it relates to their leadership skills and passions. For example, Patrick Lencioni and his team at the Table Group did some excellent work and research with the Six Types of Working Genius.  

4. What You Want to Become

The most overlooked element of authenticity is not considering who you want to become. Dr. Suess wrote it beautifully, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” Every person is a work in progress, and showing up authentically should express how you are adapting as a person and continuing to have a growth mindset. 

Nothing is wrong with changing your mind when you learn something new. In fact, it’s inauthentic to be unwilling to learn, grow, and develop into a better version of yourself over time.  

Closing 

There isn’t a magic pill to start showing up as a more authentic leader and professional. However, having the courage to define what you stand for, know how you show up, realize when you’re at your best, and define what you want to become, is a fantastic place to start.

How important is it to you for leaders to show up authentically? Tell me in the comments how you determine if a leader is authentic.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

3 Ways to Be a More Authentic Leader

Leadership

When coming up with a list of essential leadership skills, it’s not uncommon to see words like “coaching” or “visionary” come up. While such skills are undoubtedly necessary, another skill has emerged as essential in modern leadership; authenticity.

Like many words and skills today, its true meaning has been hijacked. The word authentic is traditionally defined as “real or genuine; not copied or false.” When used in the context of leadership, I describe it as, “how a leader demonstrates and shares their genuine values, stories, and desires.” If the definition wasn’t clear enough, I want you to remember this leadership truth about authenticity:

Authentic leaders forge strong relationships and inspire others to bring their human self to work.

Are Today’s Leaders Authentic?

We have new leaders emerge every generation, but one truth endures; we become the leaders we watch, hear, and experience. Unfortunately, many current leaders who were exposed to inauthentic leadership are now leading the same way. They withhold the truth, act like they have it all figured out, and leverage people to serve their needs. While I believe people can change and remain hopeful those leading this way would take a different approach, those are challenging habits to break. 

Luckily, many of today’s leaders appear to be fed up with being fake and are committed to being authentically human in their approach. 

The best leaders aren’t fake and are committed to being authentically human in their approach. 

Whatever your leadership journey has looked like so far, here are a few ideas for how to be more authentic as a leader:

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1. Share Personal Stories

There is a long list of things you can do to be an authentic leader, but sharing personal stories is at the top of the list.  

I asked Kara Goldin, founder of Hint and author of Undaunted, “Why is being an authentic leader so critical in today’s environment?” on the Follow My Lead Podcast. Her response was fantastic. “The best leaders are authentic and willing to share their story and struggles. The reason is people understand through stories who you are and what you are trying to achieve.”

Not only is Goldin correct, when leaders share their personal stories and struggles, it reveals their humanity to others. It fosters trust and makes leaders relatable.  

There is a fine line between sharing personal stories and oversharing information that makes people uncomfortable. The questions I coach leaders to answer before sharing a story are these: 

  1. “Is this going to help your people know you or relate to your perspective better?” 
  2. Does this story demonstrate empathy for their situation?”  

If the answer is yes to either of those questions, all it takes is the courage to share it. 

2. Tell the Truth

All too often, when there are things leaders must say to people, they avoid the topic or sugarcoat it so much that the truth never comes out. Authentic leaders refuse to fall into this trap and lean on telling the truth, even when it’s hard. The truth needs no crutches. I like to think of opinions versus reality this way. 

Opinions are overrated, and truths are underrated. 

Now that you know that telling the truth is an essential element of being an authentic leader, the secret is how you tell the truth. If you share the facts empathetically, it enhances the potential that someone is open to doing something different. However, if you speak condescending or come from a place of superiority, you will almost certainly get the inverse of your intended effect, 

3. Inspire With Hope

The reality of a situation isn’t always what we want to hear. This is why the most authentic leaders always paint a picture of hope if people decide to do things differently.  

“The most authentic leaders always paint a picture of hope.”

Napoleon famously said, “a leader’s role is to define reality, then give hope.” The longer I have studied great leaders, the more I recognize that they are constantly looking for opportunities to give hope. The world we live and work in is hard and constantly changing. Having a leader in a relentless pursuit of a better future is inspiring. 

Closing

There is nothing worse than a leader who believes they are tricking their people into thinking they are someone they are not. While it might last for a while, the truth always comes out. If you find yourself in a similar situation right now, I urge you to start the journey now of being a more authentic leader. 

Developing the skill of authenticity is a requirement to be a great leader. However, it isn’t easy and often takes decades to master it. Start small and focus on sharing personal stories, telling the truth, and inspiring with hope. 

The better you get at these three things, the more likely your people will look at you as someone authentic.  

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How Great Leaders Respond to Adversity

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“Every one of us has the ability to be a servant leader.”

In season 25, episode 9, we are joined by Damon West.  He is the author of The Coffee Bean and The Change Agent. You can learn more about him.


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Every person whether you want it or not has faced adversity. The current pandemic is a great example of adversity that no one asked for or expected. Damon West, the author of The Coffee Bean shared a phenomenal example of the three basic responses to adversity.

Adversity is a lot like a pot of boiling water. If you put a carrot in a pot of boiling water, it turns soft. You don’t want to be the carrot when adversity happens. If you place an egg in the boiling water, it turns hard. You don’t want to be the egg when adversity happens. If you put coffee beans in boiling water, you have to change the name of it to coffee. What you want to be is a coffee bean when adversity happens because you will be positive and attract the right things into your life.

The question you want to answer today is what are you going to choose to be in the face of adversity:

  • A carrot
  • An egg 
  • A coffee bean

Quotes to Remember

“Great leaders use vulnerability and authenticity in the way they lead.”

“If you’re going to pray don’t worry, if you’re going to worry don’t pray.”

“God put in front of me what you need me to do today for you and let me recognize it when I see it.”

You control four things in life; what you think, say, feel, and what you do.”

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.