Authentic (adjective): of undisputed origin; real; genuine
Leader (noun): head; chief; boss; superior
You might or can be an authentic leader. I bet you didn’t know that. It’s not a new concept as it was first brought up as a leadership form in the 1960s. However, many claim that it can be traced back to ancient times.
About two decades ago, Bill George and his colleagues decided to give it further study. The result is a book, Authentic Leadership that defined a new kind of leader.
What is it then? It’s a leadership style that requires heads of organizations to be true to themselves and act accordingly in a real and genuine manner. Authentic leadership is an alternative approach to types that focus on profit. More organizations are promoting it, although it’s still an evolving concept that has yet to reach maturity.
The characteristics of authentic leaders
- They are self-aware.
They know themselves and regularly take stock of their strengths, beliefs, and principles. Authentic leaders understand what they value and what they live for. They acknowledge their weaknesses and shortcomings. Likewise, they are aware of how others perceive them.
Authentic leaders are introspective. They look back at their successes and failures to learn from these. Their experiences define who they are and remind them that struggles are part of their journey.
- They are emotionally intelligent.
Unsurprisingly, they also possess a high EQ. According to this, authentic leadership and emotional intelligence overlap. When faced with challenges, they remain composed. They do not let anger, frustration, or fear take hold of them. They also practice empathy.
- They are transparent.
They are themselves at work. There’s no persona or public image on display. Expect them to be honest. In the same manner, they expect the same from their colleagues or subordinates.
Critics of the concept argue that if authenticity requires transparency, why should authentic leaders hide their emotions. If they remain true to themselves, shouldn’t they express anger when they feel it, for instance?
But, Bill George counters by stating that authentic leaders are aware of their words and actions’ possible adverse effects. In such situations, they choose not to show their emotions.
- They are persons with integrity.
They do the right thing, no matter what. Aware that difficult situations demand hard decisions, authentic leaders will not set aside their moral values for the sake of expediency or profit. They are consistent and never flip-flop. They think of others and not of themselves alone.
It’s no surprise employees hold authentic leaders in high esteem. They know they are being led by a principled person who also looks out for them.
- They’re committed to growth.
Authentic leaders pursue growth for their companies, themselves, and their subordinates. They believe that achieving corporate goals should also benefit employees. Profit is not their only concern.
They are guided by their vision and are undeterred by obstacles along the way. They are open to feedback and criticism. How can people grow if they do not take the time to listen and consider others’ opinions? Authentic leaders are emotionally intelligent, so they don’t let their pride get in the way.
The skeptics say that an authentic leader may not be the best fit for many organizations. Leaders would have to adopt a persona when situations require it. There’s still an ongoing study of authentic leadership and its effectiveness in organizations.
However, you are the best judge of what leadership style you should apply in your organization. If you possess the above traits, why not give it a try? If you do, it could turn out to be an excellent decision.