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.

Most Managers Don’t Know How to Encourage Others. But They Can Learn.

“Leaders who don’t encourage will eventually be surrounded by a discouraged team.”


In 1832, Abraham Lincoln lost his job and was defeated in a bid for the state legislature. That defeat set off a string of failures and heartbreak for the future-president. His business failed, leaving him in debt for the next 17 years; his fiance died unexpectedly; he had a nervous breakdown causing him to be homebound for two years; he lost seven elections.  

While we will never know what was going on in the heart of Lincoln during those setbacks, he never gave up and got discouraged. Not only did his tenacity and courage payoff, but the skills and toughness he acquired helped him lead during turbulent times. Today he is widely considered to be one of the greatest presidents of the history of the United States because of his fantastic accomplishments. 

Tough times don’t last, tough people do.  

Lincoln is proof of the truth behind Robert Schuller words.

Why getting discouraged will destroy you

If there is a time you’re going to get discouraged, it’s now. A seemingly endless period of uncertainty, fear, and doubt clutters your mind daily. Instead of getting up early to read, workout, or beat the traffic, you are faced with the all-important decision about whether you should shower or not before you start remote work. 

Regardless of your particular situation, no one is exempt from getting discouraged. The word “courage” comes from the Latin root “cor,” which means “heart.” So literally, the word discouraged means, “disheartened.” While no one would blame you for having a broken heart about the current situation, it’s losing your heart that we can’t allow to happen.  

A broken heart is okay, losing your heart isn’t.

While it’s possible for one superhuman professional to single handily find ways not to get discouraged, that’s the exception, not the rule. We need leaders to encourage us and keep us moving forward. If you find yourself in a position where you need to do this for others, here are some strategies:

1. Start with empathy about their situation

One of my mentors told me early in my career, “Everybody is going through something whether you know it or not.” Start from a place of empathy.  

Remote workers are juggling working from home and teaching their kids at the same time. For the first week, my kids were out of school, I didn’t believe it was a tough job. In the last two weeks, I’ve experienced the challenges of teaching my son, I have great empathy for any working parent who is in the same boat.  

Even if you haven’t been in an employees exact position, you can still empathize. When you do this, they will be more open to the strategies and the words you decide to use.

2. Focus on your environment to maintain hope

One of the exceptional leaders I wrote about in Building the Best, Bob Caslen, provided fantastic insight in an email interview this week. He said:  

“One of the most important things leaders must do in crisis and adversity is to maintain hope. If hope becomes forlorn, then morale quickly plummets. In order to maintain hope, the leader must know the environment; where the challenges are and where the opportunities are. He or she must have the agility and adaptiveness to find the opportunities and to develop and pursue them. It is in this environment, that hope is maintained, and where hope can grow. And when hope is strong, people do not get discouraged.”

Take Caslen’s words to heart and focus your efforts on understanding your team’s environment. Explore strategies and solutions to that will allow your team to quickly adapt and pivot to provide hope to your people.  

3. Use specific words and phrases

Words are powerful things. To keep your team from becoming discouraged, you must use strong and powerful language. In the latest episode of the Follow My Lead podcast, Mike Robbins, author of the new book We’re All in This Together, shared a powerful lesson all leaders need to add to their arsenal: “Even though it doesn’t seem like it, you have more than this moment requires.”

I don’t know a better, more powerful phrase for you to use with your team on a regular basis more than this, “You have more than this moment requires.” Here are a few more of my favorites:  

“You were born for this.”

“If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

“You haven’t given up yet for a reason.”

“You are a blessing.”

Or this one from Rachel Hollis:

Closing

If you’re uncertain about your ability to lead your team away from discouragement, remember Abraham Lincoln. He continued on for years, with no proof or evidence, seemingly alone. The difference is your team doesn’t have to do it alone. You can lead them. Take this responsibility seriously by having empathy, maintaining hope, and using specific words to encourage them. Remember leaders who don’t encourage will eventually be surrounded by a discouraged team.

You have more than this moment requires!

Whom are you going to encourage today? How are you going to encourage your team this week?

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making victual 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.

How to Effectively Lead Others in Uncertain Times

Confused businessman writing question mark on whiteboard

We seem to be in uncertain times. It’s the role of great leaders to provide direction and hope in times of uncertainty.

In season 24 episode 9, John covers the critical topic of leading in uncertain times.


Leadership isn’t easy when times are good. Consider the challenge of leading in uncertain times. Uncertainty refers to epistemic situations involving imperfect or unknown information.

In many ways, leadership and uncertainty go hand in hand. Leaders are constantly providing a vision of a future that hasn’t happened, selling a vision of a better world than exists in its current form.  All in an effort to rally others to buy into a vision and make it a reality.

Great leaders provide direction and hope in times of uncertainty.

John Eades

There is no better example of this than the coronavirus pandemic.  In my 37 years, I have never experienced this much uncertainty.  Depending on your industry, there is a good chance the virus has or will impact your business (and the people you lead) in one way or another. 

Take fear head-on

At the center of uncertainty is fear.  You and I fear what we don’t know or understand, and fear is an emotion of the mind. Those six inches between our ears begin to picture all that might wrong and all of the scenarios that might play out. The keyword here is “might”. Fear gets complicated. Not only does it infiltrate your mind, but it can and will infiltrate each person on your team, in different ways and with different intensity levels.  

Overcoming fear is a skill you can develop.  As you gain more experience and you develop your fear reducing skills, you will get better at not allowing fear to take hold of the space in your brain.  Part of your responsibility is to help them understand that nothing good comes after they allow fear to set in, regardless of how intense the pressures or messages from the outside world become.  

The formula for leaders

Focus on Facts + Communicate Hope in the Future

Focus on Facts

Once we understand fear is at the root of what will ruin you or your team in uncertain times, then comes your most important job, get the facts.  Take the time, effort, and necessary steps to get the facts about the current situation. Don’t rely on a news headline or some opinion you have, but on the actual facts.  While it’s true the facts change as time goes on, it’s important anything you communicate to your team be rooted in facts, not fear.

Communicate Hope in the Future

Communicating hope in the future is challenging because often the facts can create even more uncertainty or doubt.  While each situation is different, I have found it almost always better to side with transparency centered with hope.  In many ways, the only thing that matters for a leader is what’s ahead of them and their team. Hope is expecting good things with confidence. It’s an optimistic state of mind that the future is brighter. Make that the center of your message. If hope isn’t in your message, your people won’t make the self-disciplined choices required to improve the situation.  They will give up.  

Self-discipline is simply the willingness and the ability to sacrifice what you want now for what you want more later on.  Each member of your team will have to be willing and able to sacrifice what they want now (fear and comfort) for what they want more later on (a better future). This is exactly why your message to your team needs both facts and hope in the future.  

Closing

As we enter this current state of uncertainty or any type of uncertainty you experience on your team, remember, you are exactly in the position you are supposed to be. You are good enough to lead your team through this. Now, more than ever, they need you to lead.   

What are the keys to leading in times of uncertainy and crisis?

Don’t allow fear to take hold, focus on the facts, communicate hope in the future.

What do great leader do in times of uncertainty?

Great leaders provide direction and hope in uncertain times.

Is leadership harder during times of uncertainty?

Without question leadership is harder during times of uncertainty. But leadership in many ways is all about uncertainty.

Join the Next Ultimate Leadership Academy If you are ready to elevate the way you lead, join the next virtual Ultimate Leadership Academy which starts March 18th. Use the code “leader” to get $50 off.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the 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.