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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

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Dr. Luis C. Almeida

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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