Everyone agrees that authenticity is an essential characteristic of successful leaders.
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But what does authenticity in leadership really look like, and how can you incorporate it into the way you lead your small business?
Authenticity basically means being a genuine person. So for business leaders, authenticity should come naturally, right? Think again. Every day, business owners face situations and scenarios that challenge their ability to lead in authentic manner. Although it's usually neither malicious nor intentional, inauthentic behaviors have a way of creeping into even the most well-intentioned business owner's leadership style. To help you stay on track, here are a few signs of authenticity in leadership and some tips you can use on a go forward basis.
Companies that say one thing and do something else risk alienating their employees as well as their customers. To maintain consistency, effective leaders go out of their way to align company actions with stated goals and values. If your business' core values fail to resonate with your business model, authenticity requires you to intervene and make the necessary adjustments. In some cases, you may even need to battle against popular opinion within your company to restore consistency.
Not all actions carry the same weight with the people you lead. Some actions are truly meaningful while others are merely symbolic. Leaders that engage in shallow, attention-getting actions quickly gain a reputation for being disingenuous, while authentic leaders look for ways to reinforce their values with significant actions. For example, if your business holds environmental responsibility to be a core value, your personal involvement with green initiatives will mean a lot more than hanging an environmental awareness poster on your office door.Personal Integrity
Leaders are under constant scrutiny. If your personal conduct isn't consistent with your business rhetoric, your ability to lead will be seriously threatened. Many leaders find it helpful to have an inner circle of associates who are capable of speaking frankly to them, especially when their personal integrity is on the line.
Tips for Authenticity in Leadership
Authenticity in leadership doesn't happen on its own. It starts with an intentional effort to say what you believe. If you don't really believe customer service is your company's highest priority, then don't say it is in company documents and personal interactions.
Authenticity also requires you to maintain open dealings in the community and within the company itself. If you have a habit of keeping everyone in the dark until the last possible moment, it's only natural for your employees to question whether or not your truly value open and honest communication.
Finally, authenticity is most often demonstrated through normal, everyday actions – not grand events designed to convince others that you are truly an authentic leader. Sure, effective leaders take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate their authenticity, but they usually do so through personal interactions and in the course of daily business activities.