What Do Authentic Leaders Do?

Authentic LeadershipThis blog is number six and the final in a series focused on building authentic leadership. In this post we will explore how understanding to be an authentic leader working within a culture and systems you likely don’t have complete control over.

No one is authentic by imitating others. You must know yourself and develop your own authentic style. As authentic leaders, it seems we should be able to do what comes naturally; yet, authenticity is not as effective as responding to what your team needs from you. So, we return to an earlier question: Can I be authentic if I am tailoring my behavior to what others want or need from me? We submit you have a broad range of authentic behaviors, and it is possible to be both true to yourself while meeting your constituents’ needs.

While imitation doesn’t work – this statement is incomplete – you may still want to know what behaviors you could use as a starting point. For this I would like to return to a prior post such as Leadership 2050?

So, what are the steps to demonstrate authentic leadership behaviors?

  1. Know what you stand for and understand your values, as well as your leadership type and developmental perspective. By understanding your true values as well as your innate strengths and weaknesses you begin to set the baseline for what you hold true. For requests that do not impact your core values or your strengths, you have flexibility in how you respond. You may build skills or look to a teammate to augment you in specific areas.
  2. Understand the individual members of your teams’ values and type. We have talked about type and developmental perspective in prior posts as two good tools to better understand your team. If you are working closely with someone, it will be helpful to understand their values. You can often gain a basic understanding by listening, observing things and knowing what someone does outside of work. Do they volunteer in the community outside your agency? Do they spend weekends with family? Do they take vacations that involve adventure? What do they read?
  3. Practice tailoring conversations and behaviors to others in a way that will be authentic to your values and at the same time be effective given the culture and organizational goals. You may even want to practice a few scenarios in preparation for tough negotiations or difficult discussions. By knowing your values and your innate type, you have a foundation that guides you on where to adjust and where to stay true to yourself.

Authentic leaders are true to themselves, they honor their personal values and commitments, and they also adapt to situations so they can provide the leadership needed by their staff. Their staffs are likely to have a broad range of expectations of the leader—and having a one-size-fits-all “authentic” approach to all situations is suboptimal. The best leaders are able to honor their own style and still meet others where they are (which can sound paradoxical at times).

As with all changes in the way we process, perceive, and behave, there is no magic wand. You already know the value of persistence and commitment—it’s what has brought you this far already. Using the five elements of innovative leadership can support you in becoming an authentic and dynamic leader, and will support your ongoing leadership success.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

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Photo credit: Davld Clow