Authentic leaders inherently lead in a way aligned with their core values and beliefs. They genuinely desire to serve others, know themselves well and feel confident to lead from their core values. Now that we understand “What it means to be an authentic leader?“ let’s explore the topic further and What entails to be an authentic leader?
According to Bill George, author of the famous book – “Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value.”, successful authentic leaders share and demonstrate five essential characteristics & qualities:
Successful Authentic Leaders lead with:
- Understanding and alignment with their purpose
- Solid Values & Principles
- Heart and Soul
- Establish long-term connected relationships
- Excellence through self-discipline & self-awareness
Authentic Leaders clearly understand their purpose, have strong values to guide them about what right thing to do, establish long-lasting & trusting relationships, have self-discipline and act upon their values, and are passionate about the goals they want to achieve. George showed the five dimensions of authentic leadership: purpose, values, relationships, self-discipline, and heart. These sound like characteristics, but those are observable outcomes, while the dimensions are the underlying visible qualities of an authentic leader.
How to be an authentic leader
To become authentic, each of us must develop our leadership style, consistent with our personality and character. Unfortunately, the pressures of an organization push us to adhere to its normative style. But if we conform to a leadership style that is not consistent with who we are, we will never become authentic leaders. Contrary to what much of the literature says, your type of leadership style is not what matters. Great world leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and John F. Kennedy had very different yet entirely authentic styles.
There is no way you could ever attempt to emulate any of them without looking foolish. The same is true for business leaders. Compare the last three CEOs of General Electric: the statesmanship of Reginald Jones, the dynamism of Jack Welch, and the empowering style of Jeff Immelt. All of them are highly successful leaders with entirely different leadership styles. Yet the GE organization has rallied around each of them, adapted to their styles, and flourished. What counts is the authenticity of the leader, not the style.
You must develop a leadership style that works well for you and is consistent with your character and personality.
Integral to your leadership development, you must hone your style to lead people effectively and work in different environments. To be effective in today’s fast-moving, highly competitive environment, leaders must also adapt their style to fit the immediate situation.
There are times to be inspiring, motivating, and challenging about people’s or financial decisions. There are times to delegate and be deeply immersed in the details. There are times to communicate public messages and times to have private conversations. The use of adaptive styles is not inauthentic and is very different from playing a succession of roles rather than being yourself. Good leaders can nuance their styles to the demands of the situation and know when and how to deploy different styles.