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Defining authentic leadership

By now, we have all heard the term authentic leadership. But do you really understand what it means? Does anyone? 

At the root, authentic means real, lawful, genuine – leading some team leaders and CEOs to wrestle with the idea that they can hold such a position’s title and still be considered inauthentic. After all, their leadership position is unarguable, right? 

However, the word authentic can possess several different meanings depending on the setting. Let’s think for a minute about our favorite teacher growing up. What did he/she do that made you enjoy (or not completely dread) going to his/her class? Maybe he kept it very discussion based and made sure every student felt heard. Or maybe she spent the whole class lecturing but her pure passion for the subject drew you in and made you want to care about the topic just as passionately. 

Authentic leaders hold similar qualities to those of your favorite educators. A key reason for this is because authentic leaders genuinely care about the growth of their flocks rather than gaining a blind following. Authentic leaders are not power hungry robots who only care about their own climb up the ladder. 

When companies identify and empower the authentic leaders that already exist within their network, they will also gain more long-term and inspired employees. 

Building trust and collaboration

A few ways that authentic leaders build trust is by always communicating with their team willingly, encouraging employees to be themselves, looking for win-win opportunities, and sparking collaboration. 

When the above describes a work environment, employees start to take action because they feel inspired, not because they were asked to or because their job depended on it. Authentic leaders draw this kind of action out of their employees by asking for feedback and answers, not just handing it out. They use questions such as How do you think we could do better next time? And What do you think the solution here is? This helps give power to the employees, making them invested in the outcomes. 

Listening Actively

An authentic leader will take the time to get to know his employees. He will have an understanding of their motivations and style of speaking. When he is spoken to, he will listen to understand what is really being said. He will then answer to help achieve the needs and cater to the motivations of his employees. He will genuinely care about what is being said and how he can help. 

Believing in the Positives 

You will always see what you are hoping to find. If a leader tells himself that he has a team of slackers then he will never be satisfied with the end product. Authentic leaders believe that others have positive intent at all times. This assumption helps employees feel comfortable coming to him for help, advice or saying that they made a mistake. The idea of positive intent helps to create a margin of error allowing everyone to breathe and be human. An authentic leader will encourage his employees to acknowledge a mistake so that a solution can be made.  He does not see the world in black and white but instead understands that no action or person is completely wrong or right. 

Embracing the Power 

Authentic leadership is a company’s most valuable asset. These leaders will devote themselves to both the company and the employees. As a general rule, when employees feel appreciated, their work becomes more inspired and they feel more loyalty to their company. 

Look at it this way: hundreds of people will buy a knockoff Louis Vuitton bag this year because it’s the easier option. But there will be several times that the owner will wish that she had just waited for the real thing. As the straps start to crack and the lining begins to tear, she can’t help but wonder if the authentic bag would have lasted longer. 

The same is true in this case. Authentic leaders are harder to come by and may cost a company more, but an inauthentic leader can only get you so far before he ultimately fails and/or employees go looking elsewhere.  

 

By: Miranda Hardesty Hoffpauir 

TaylorMason
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