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6 Distinct Characteristics of an Authentic Leadership

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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

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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

Dr. Almeida is a college professor and department chair who has taught over a thousand students with questions relating to technology and leadership.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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