Lead with Authenticity

In my past career in marketing, one of my clients was a banking corporation. My boss handed her the most recent communications plan to improve corporate culture. I filtered through the objectives and strategies and came to the tactics section which are the specific activities necessary to complete the plan. As I read the following tactic my eyebrows raised, “Management by walking around.” So seemingly simple. I realized immediately the gravity of the situation. The CEO ran the bank from his cushy oversized leather desk chair within the confines of a spacious, well-appointed office in the top floors of the building. The closest the employees got to him was the large, framed portrait in the bank’s lobby.

The old days of leadership by intimidation are over! And demanding respect isn’t earning respect. Are your employees rolling their eyeballs when they leave your office? Is the rumor mill churning? Whispers of, “what kind of mood is he in today?” Or, “don’t go near her today!” By just taking a few simple steps, you can be the kind of boss people can be proud to work for. What kind of boss is that? One that leads with authenticity! How do we go about it?

Be self-aware and genuine
Be honest with yourself about your own strengths, limitations and emotions. Perceiving yourself accurately and knowing who you are is the first step in becoming more genuine and down-to-earth with your employees.

Engagement starts at the top
Teams are more likely to be engaged and actively uphold the company’s mission if you model a culture that allows for genuine sharing of ideas and self-expression. Work alongside your employees, not above them.

Listening Skills
Truly listen to your colleagues and employees even if they express an idea that’s not in line with your views. Examine ideas with an open mind, who knows? Maybe it will lead to something great!

Lead with heart
Authentic leaders lead with their heart, not just their minds. Don’t be afraid to show some emotion and vulnerability with fellow employees. Make yourself real and show you’re not invincible will go along way to removing communication barriers.

Integrity
Are you one way at work and show a completely different side outside of the office? Integrity means having the same moral character inside and outside the job. Employees respect leaders who are true to their word and keep their promises. A boss who models this behavior gains respect by being authentically genuine and real.

Transparency
Keep the lines of communication open and when there’s a need to be direct, do it with empathy. Show you care. When you’re accessible and real your employees can then be the same with you. When upsets happen on the job, do your best to find out what may be behind the problem. Don’t be afraid to share failures. “In most workplaces, failure is a bad thing, but as a leader, you have to talk about failure to create a workplace that’s open and human,” says Darcy Eikenberg, founder of Red Cape Revolution and author of “Bring Your Superpowers to Work.”

Consistency
Employees want leaders they can count on who stick to what they say and aren’t swayed easily by the opinion of the day. Maintain a consistent approach.

Share success with the team
An authentic leader not only builds a good team but is eager to give credit where credit is due. Appreciated employees are more fully engaged and motivated to do their best work.

See the big picture
Authentic leaders lead with vision and purpose. They are willing to put the mission and goals of the organization ahead of their own self-interest. They push themselves and others around them to aim for excellency.

Over time, actions like these will create a workplace that encourages authenticity. When people feel like they can be themselves and be honest expressing their feelings, it naturally leads to more creative, collaborative teams. In this age of technology, we must, must, must lean into humanity. It’s all we have!