Authenticity and Leadership

Tuesday, February 19 2013

Authenticity nourishes the trust that makes leadership work. When people detect a behavior that doesn’t seem to reflect who their leaders are, the seeds of mistrust are sown. And, like a weed, negative perceptions can multiply quickly and overgrow a leader’s true personality.

Knowing yourself is the root of authenticity. Begin by reflecting on your thoughts and emotions. Unearth the beliefs and values that life and important individuals have taught you.

Strengths and weaknesses are found in your life and career experiences. Discover your strengths by documenting what led to specific successes in several different situations. What you didn’t do well reveals your weaknesses.

Enthusiasm and disinterest can be uncovered by determining how attached you are to certain activities or social issues. Enthusiasm leads naturally to investing strong effort both on and off the job. Disinterest makes it hard to get ‘up’ to do something.

Confidence and uncertainty can vary. Every leader has feelings about how well they can affect the future and their place in it. Confidence leads to proactive decisions and action; uncertainty creates hesitation. Identify where you feel you can and cannot create a positive future.

Transparency is the result of knowing yourself and contributes to authenticity. No one reveals everything; but, you need to be transparent enough to reflect who you are.

We are attracted to those who hold similar values and beliefs. If you share your values and underlying beliefs, you can help others to express theirs. Strive to be balanced about the strengths and weaknesses, enthusiasms and disinterests, confidence and uncertainty that you share. The positive will outweigh the negative, and if you underplay the negative, people will judge this as false.

Build authenticity with your team by showing all the results of your work. Take modest credit for successes and honest responsibility for shortfalls. When their leader shares results, subordinates feel less intimidated about sharing theirs.

Ask for help. When you model that everyone needs help and can ask for it, it will make it easier for your team to admit they are overwhelmed and need help. People want to work with leaders, who are seen to be human, yet successful.  Such leaders provide an example of how weaknesses can be overcome and success achieved.  In this situation everyone is nourished – leaders, team members, and the organization.