Authentic leadership, while still a forming theory, is an increasingly popular desire to have leaders who are seen as genuine, or “real.” This approach supports the notion that a leader’s legitimacy is based on his or her honest relationships with followers. Generally, authentic leaders are positive people with truthful self-concepts who promote openness and morality.
The characteristics of authentic leadership
Authentic leaders are individuals who are aware of their strengths, their weaknesses and their emotions. They do not hide their real self, including mistakes or weaknesses, from their followers. Authentic leaders also understand that self-awareness is a continuous journey.
Authentic leaders are focused on results above all else. They are able to set aside their own self-interest to focus on the company’s mission and goals. The company’s future takes precedence over their own ego or need for money and power.
In addition to leading with their minds, authentic leaders lead with their hearts. They do not shy away from their emotions, their vulnerability and their connection with their employees. This enhances direct and transparent communication within their organization, leading to more successful outcomes.
Authentic leaders focus on the long-term. They realize that leading individuals and a company requires hard work and patience, and that this approach pays off in the long run.
Grooming leaders to be authentic
Bill George, senior fellow at Harvard Business School, conducted research on how leadership has changed in the past decade. These studies focused on 47 global leaders, as well as follow-up interviews with 90 leaders who were featured in his studies 10 years prior. George and his team learned that most of these leaders took on an authentic approach, and were performing very well.
In addition, George and his team found that authentic leaders are in a constant state of learning and growth. The challenges they face allow them the opportunity to embrace their true selves and past experiences, in order to become more effective as leaders.
Authentic leadership results in more effective work, and a more meaningful life. To become an authentic leader, you must be open to personal development and applying a strong moral compass to your decision making. While no journey is perfect, this approach allows you to live a life that is authentically yours.