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Published on April 21, 2020

6 Distinct Characteristics of an Authentic Leadership

6 Distinct Characteristics of an Authentic Leadership

Investing time to develop authenticity is worthwhile. Authentic leadership is important because it encourages moral integrity, open and genuine, communication.[1]

Bill George, Harvard University professor the author of the book, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, states that leadership programs should put its efforts to training leaders to develop their authenticity instead of trying to redefine what authenticity is.

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, Herminia Ibarra suggests that:[2]

“Authenticity has emerged as the gold standard for leadership.”

It is in a leader’s best interest to work on refining their authenticity to help develop their employee’s attitudes, commitment, and creativity, which can also lead to an improvement in their corporate performance.

In this article, you will learn six ways of developing your authenticity as a leader.

Why Should You Strategically Develop Authenticity?

The short answer is because naive authenticity can backfire.

Critics of Authentic leadership, University of Pennsylvania’s professor Adam Grant, said that “be yourself” is actually terrible advice unless you are Oprah.”[3]

I fully agree with Grant that people may have thoughts and feelings for others that sometimes are better left unspoken.

Can you imagine what would happen to a unit’s culture if the leader explicitly says to his subordinates what he thinks about them, especially if those feelings are negative? Toxicity is the term to comes to my mind.

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Stating to a colleague that her hair is ugly would not be great advice either, even though it would be an authentic statement and assuming that the leader believed that his colleague had ugly hair.

Much strategic planning has to occur for authentic leadership to work.

Before we talk about the six ways to assist you with developing your authenticity, it might be a good idea to strategize how you are going to develop this skillset.

Understanding Self-Monitoring

To me, the process starts with understanding the differences in self-monitoring.

According to psychologist Mark Snyder, there are two types of monitoring: high and low self-monitors.[4]

We learn from Snyder that high self-monitors are characterized by being people who modify the way they present themselves to others socially by interpreting social clues. Their internal feelings and the outside world are not always in sync.

Low self-monitors are characterized by people who tend to behave according to their inner values and beliefs. This is an important consideration because depending on your type of self-monitoring, your ability to act authentically will vary.

Do you belong to the high or low self-monitors?

If you do not know, feel free to take the Self-Monitoring Scale.[5] It might be quite beneficial for you to know this.

6 Ways to Develop Your Authenticity

To develop your authenticity, do these following activities and take notes on which ones worked the best for you. The following exercises are exactly what I do to refine my strategic authentic leadership style.

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1. Ask for Honest Feedback

First and foremost, be humble enough to ask and listen to how your team members perceive you and your actions. You should remember that you are not perfect and that you have flaws like everyone else.

Keep in mind that the way you see yourself is not necessarily the way that others see you. When speaking with them, take notes. After speaking with them, engage in self-reflection, along with what they shared, and take action.

It is not always easy to receive honest feedback. Sometimes, receiving feedback may hurt our feelings, but this should not be the case. Learning to receive honest feedback without feeling hurt is an essential aspect of authentic leadership.

2. Work on Self-Awareness

As stated above, how you see yourself is not always in sync with how others see you. Engage in introspection once in a while. Self-reflection is an essential aspect of being an effective leader.

How is your tone of voice sounding like? Are you matching your words with your behaviors? How are you dressing up? How is your office arranged? Are they in alignment with your true persona?

The power of self-awareness is unlimited, and a high level of reflection is beneficial to most aspects of our lives. This makes it a critical characteristic if you want to be an authentic leader.

3. Analyze Your Life Story and Struggles

You need to better understand who you are in order to develop authenticity.

I was bullied in school and failed miserably academically in Brazil. But these experiences helped me become a caring leader who listens to the advice given by my team.

This applies to you too. What you experienced in life help define who you are now. And it does not matter if these are mostly bad experiences or good ones. What matters is how you view them and use them to improve yourself.

As Bill George would say:

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“As leaders discover their truth, their True North, they gain confidence and resilience to face difficult situations.”[6]

4. Be Consistent

It is difficult to be authentic if your rhetoric is not consistent.

Be careful with contradicting yourself with directives and expectations. You must give clear directions to all your team members and have reasonable expectations of completion.

Being inconsistent with delivering messages to your team is likely to negatively impact your ability to build authenticity.

If you are not consistent in what you say, others will see you as a hypocrite, and this will negatively affect how others will see you and your leadership capabilities.

5. Appreciate Your Team’s Victories

Learn to think that victories, even small ones, are worth celebrating. Celebrating success is always a good policy.

Celebrating success authentically is a great practice. Give credit to team members when credit is due. Enable team members to share their personal victories as well. Provide a token of appreciation whenever possible.

Choose to be a celebratory hero instead of a quiet naysayer.

6. Practice Self-Discipline

Never, under any circumstance, scream. Screamers run the risk of finishing the long journey alone.

Work on minimizing your weaknesses, go for daily walks and take a break, practice social listening and accept the fact that you will make mistakes.[7] It is okay as long as you have the discipline to fix the error.

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No one starts fully disciplined already. Like most things, mastering self-discipline requires a lot of practice and patience.

If you are having a hard time disciplining your self, this article may help you build self-discipline: How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life

Final Thoughts

Stagnation will not help you with authentic leadership.

Leading others to perform to the best of their abilities is a task that leaders should strive for. What good leaders do is help their team reach higher levels of productivity by being more authentic.

What is your monitoring style? High or Low?

Keep learning. Ask for honest feedback and listen to what your team members tell you.

Work on self-awareness and how others see you. Engage in introspection and re-analyze your life story and struggles.

Be consistent with your speech, appreciate the accomplishments of your team members, and practice self-discipline. Be humble and never stop learning.

Authentic leadership, when developed strategically, can make you become the best leader you can be.

More Leadership Tips

Featured photo credit: ThisisEngineering RAEng via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Deloitte: How Authentic Leadership and Inclusion Benefit Organisations
[2] Harvard Business Review: The Authenticity Paradox
[3] The New York Times: Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice.
[4] American Psychological Association: Self Monitoring: Appraisal and reappraisal
[5] Open-Source Psychometrics Project: Self-Monitoring Scale
[6] Harvard Business School: The Truth About Authentic Leaders
[7] Forbes: 5 Proven Methods For Gaining Self Discipline

More by this author

Dr. Luis C. Almeida

Department Chair

6 Distinct Characteristics of an Authentic Leadership 3 Ways to Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind to Reach Your Goals

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

More on Constructive Feedback

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

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