Authentic leadership: overrated or undervalued?

Buzzwords are a staple of the business world. There are ebbs and flows when certain ideas become the flavour of the week. While some are more long-lasting than others, the bottom line is that many of these buzzwords are no more than a fleeting trend.

As of late, the idea of authenticity in leadership has suffered the fate of so many trendy phrases before it. Like all buzzwords, authenticity has become so overused that people have lost sight of what it really means at its core.

So what is authentic leadership? Why does it matter? And how can we genuinely foster it?

Is authentic leadership overrated?

The difference with this particular buzzword is that authentic leadership is a critical skill. It’s worth all the hype it’s been given because genuine leaders are the common denominator in almost every successful business across the board.

Authentic leadership rejects the notion that leadership inherently requires acting. It is about being true to your personality through your leadership style. It is a sincere and direct approach to leadership that builds trust among team members and promotes honesty at every level.

It’s difficult to function at a high-level of business without it because it means pretending to be someone you’re not. Put it this way: How long could you last in a marriage that was built on a personality you don’t actually possess? Probably not very long.

The same logic applies to leadership. You cannot grow and lead a business in a way that isn’t true to your strengths, skills and overall values. This is applicable to businesses of all sizes – from small family-owned ventures to large organisations. Authentic leadership, staying true to a vision and set of goals – this is what leads to success.

Fostering authentic leadership

Knowing the absolute importance of authenticity in leadership, what makes up the pillars of an authentic leader? It boils down to four key criteria:

1. Authentic leaders are highly self-aware
Not only do they have high IQs, they are also in tune with their emotional intelligence. They know that in order to lead exceptionally they must continue to grow personally as well as professionally. They admit their weaknesses and actively work to improve them.

2. Authentic leaders realise success is measured by the team
This sounds straightforward but can be a tricky skill to master. Leaders must recognise that part of their own success is dependent upon the success of others – part of their role involves facilitating this success. Authentic leaders set aside their egos for the good of the team.

3. Authentic leaders strive for excellence, not perfection
Nobody is perfect. No leaders, no team members, no businesses – authentic leaders know that while perfection doesn’t exist, excellence does. They strive to do the best they can with the knowledge that nothing will ever truly be 100 per cent on point.

4. Authentic leaders inspire trust
The defining indicator of authentic leaders is the trust they inspire on their teams. Today, trust is a commodity. People have low levels of trust in people in power. Authentic leaders are capable of cultivating trust naturally because they are being true to themselves and their values. They put in the work, create the relationships and make the right business moves to inspire trust across the board.

Ensuring you’re a leader that is genuine to yourself is critical to success. Not only will you benefit from this kind of deep honesty on your leadership journey, but your business will feel the positive effects as well. In a fast-paced business world, it can be difficult to ground yourself and ensure you are sticking to your leadership values, but it’s a skill that separates good leaders from great leaders.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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