There is a lot of buzz these days around the concept of authentic leadership.
Everyone agrees that authentic leadership is preferable to shallow leadership, but what is authentic leadership and how does it translate into a real world business context?
Part of the problem is that the term "authentic leadership" is elusive, even for leadership gurus. In general terms, authentic leadership refers to a leadership style that is consistently shaped by an ethical value system. In practice, the term has come to refer to leadership that is open, honest, and real.
Authentic leaders are characterized by a handful of character traits and personal values. Although these values can vary from one leader to the next, here are seven traits that we think are foundational in the development of an authentic approach to business leadership.
- Courage. Weak leaders do what is popular; authentic leader do what is necessary. Courage is a key character trait of authentic leaders because it gives them the ability to make hard decisions that are in the organization's best interest.
- Depth. Authentic leaders aren't easily influenced by the latest fads and trends. Instead, their decisions are rooted in the depth of their business and personal convictions.
- Truth-telling. Sometimes the truth hurts, especially when it means disclosing news that everyone else is trying to avoid. Good leaders are more concerned about communicating the truth than they are about making themselves look good.
- People-oriented. Truly exceptional leaders prioritize people. They place a high value on their customers and make an intentional effort to build up their employees. If you routinely tear down the people around you, your authentic leadership skills need a tune-up.
- Self-awareness. The most authentic leaders are acutely aware of their personal strengths and limitations. By understanding themselves, they exude a healthy sense of self-esteem and become equipped to lead others.
- Innovation. Creativity and innovation are common characteristics of authentic leaders. Rather than being limited by what they can't do, they have the courage and passion to attempt the impossible – and to invite others along for the ride.
- Impact. Authentic leaders leave a lasting impact in their wake. Their legacy is built not only on their own success, but also on the success of the people around them.