Five Ways To Become An Authentic Leader

Five Ways To Become An Authentic Leader

Five Ways To Become An Authentic Leader. 

By Mark Wager

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Today's best leaders are authentic leaders, people whose inner compass guides their daily actions and enables them to earn the trust of their team and their colleagues. Forbes magazine described authentic leaders as people who are self-aware of their strengths, their weaknesses and their emotions and they show their real selves when interacting with their followers. These are the type of Leaders that people want to follow and people strive to become but it’s not easy to be authentic.

Authenticity is the key to become a successful Leader, yet authenticity is far more difficult to strive for than you would imagine. All leaders believe they are authentic. They believe they are honest in their actions but are they really? Just because you believe you are being authentic it doesn’t mean you are because everyone sees the world in very different and unique ways. This means the Leader you believe you are may be very different to the Leader that other people see you as. For example you may believe you are the type of person that is direct and to the point yet others may see that as being insensitive and rude.

Understand the differences between your authentic self and ideal self. 

All of us have two versions of ourselves. We have our authentic self and our ideal self. Our authentic self is who we genuinely are and our ideal self is the person we believe people want us to be. This is a natural trait of how our mind works and it starts as soon as we are born. Every human being shares the same basic needs. We  need the same things to survive,  like food, shelter, relationships, significance among others and we quickly learn as children that these needs are fulfilled when we demonstrate certain behaviours. At this stage our ideal self is formed and we learn to become the person that others want us to be.

The best way to demonstrate the difference between your authentic self and your  ideal self and how it influences your life is just to think about the first time you dated your partner. On your first date were you your authentic self or your ideal self? When I first dated my wife she asked me if I liked curries. As I wanted to impress her I confidently said of course I did, I loved curries. She explained that there was a difference between the curries I bought from the supermarkets in the United Kingdom and the authentic curries her family made in India. In my eagerness to impress I stressed that there’s no problem I loved curries and the hotter the better. A week later I was having dinner with my wife who was my girlfriend back then and her family and I was subjected to my first authentic curry. After a few mouthfuls I was asked if I was okay as I had started sweating, followed by my face going a rather a bright shade of red much to the amusement of my wife and her family. There’s our authentic self, the person we genuinely are and there’s our ideal self, the person we believe people want us to be. Authentic Leadership is the ability to stay true to your authentic self rather than your ideal self. The question is, how do your achieve authenticity? 

Establish living values

The second step towards becoming an authentic Leader is to have a clear set of values that you are able to demonstrate through every decision you make. We all have values, an inner belief of what’s right and what’s wrong but very few people actually articulate them. Without  clarity, values can be placed to one side in favour of how people expect you to act thus allowing the ideal self to take over the authentic self. Take time to list your values, the beliefs and behaviours that are important to you. It  may be honesty, trust, courage professionalism or any other of a number of values. Once these are in place then there needs to be a filter through which all your potential actions have to pass because people need to see these values embedded in your behaviours because it’s important for a Leader’s words to match their actions.

Have a clear purpose 

There’s a common theme that all inspiring Leaders share which is they have a clear purpose, a driving force that is greater than the individual. If you want your team to be passionate then they need to see a passion within yourself and this passion only comes from one place which is purpose, having something that you care about more than yourself and if you then are able to recruit people who share this purpose,  you won’t have to worry about motivating people because people will motivate themselves. Having a clear purpose can be a struggle sometimes and if you find yourself in that situation then you just need to ask yourself one simple question “why?” Why do you want to do what you want to do and if you are unsure just keep asking yourself “why” until you can’t answer any further  and it’s in this final answer that your purpose will be there waiting for you. 

Encourage honesty 

When you are in a leadership role people will treat you differently. There’s  a certain social expectation that offers a level of respect to those in positions of authority and while this can bring benefits for the Leader it can also lead to people being hesitate to provide honest feedback to the Leader particularly if it’s regarding something the Leader has done themselves. Without feedback it’s easy for a Leader to become unaware of their personal failings and instead of approaching the Leader it’s common to see people work around the Leader instead and this tends to become a bigger challenge the more successful the Leader becomes. I see this very often when I coach Leaders and I always tell them the same thing. They need to give people permission to have those courageous conversations because through that process leaders will discover opportunities to improve and keep  on track to become their authentic selves.

Connect with people.

Authentic leaders are also good communicators. They don’t just inform instead they inspire and they achieve this in two main ways. Firstly, they provide clarity for the team so no one is wondering how the Leader will react to a particular request or situation because they already know. There’s  no confusion over what the goals are or how to achieve them because the Leader has provided clarity and with this clarity comes confidence and a confident team is a winning team. The second aspect of communication is that they have the ability to share their vision and purpose and when they do they make the audience the hero of the story. They empower the audience by allowing them to realise their value and see the impact they can make. Authentic leaders can achieve this because they understand that Leadership is about serving the team rather than the team serving the leader.

Transitioning into a Leadership role can be a testing period and it’s very easy to lose yourself to the expectations that others have of you but if you can stay true to yourself and the values you hold dear then  you become an authentic Leader that will inspire others to become the best versions of themselves.

Posted: Wednesday 13 April 2022

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