There is a divide between who a leader is as a person, and how they act in their capacity as a leader. In any leadership position, individuals can feel pressured to change fundamental aspects of their personality in an endeavor to act the way they feel they should. Though this divide is widespread, it is problematic in several ways. For people unsure of how to lead, they may default to the swaggering bravado endemic to bad leaders. Additionally, they may have issues reconciling their actual personality with their personality as a leader, and fail to accommodate for every team member’s needs.
The solution? Being genuine. Authenticity is a word thrown around frequently when it comes to branding and business, but it can be difficult to define in full. Many may insist that it’s something that one “just knows.” However, for leaders, there are steps to take to be authentic and capture the hearts of those that work for them, regardless of the size of a team.
The hardest part of authenticity in leadership is learning the best ways to stay down to earth while remaining professional. Authentic leaders are flexible and able to respond to a variety of situations while still retaining their character. From nurturing a team to be their best to making difficult business decisions, leaders will always have to undergo challenges. The difference is in the way a person’s character manifests itself when dealing with tough situations.
Often, a part of working as a leader is a passion for tasks at hand. There’s no need for leaders to be universally competent, but if they get stuck in a routine, it can have an adverse effect on a team. Taking time to change up the usual itinerary and encourage your team to work in unconventional ways can inspire others to take initiative and accomplish things you couldn’t imagine.
And part of this is realizing that some of your team members will have skills that you don’t. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as an authentic leader will use this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Stagnation is the enemy of leadership, and endeavoring to learn something everyday is critical when it comes to personal growth. There will always be new challenges to contend with, and authentic leaders realize that they’ll have to adapt in order to solve problems and become better leaders. There is no shame in asking a subordinate for help, and leaders that try to dominate every aspect of a team perform much worse than those that are willing to seek out assistance.
That said, just because a person changes over time doesn’t mean that their values can’t remain constant. This is part of being an authentic leader. Living by values that you genuinely believe—your own, not necessarily your company’s—can become the core of your leadership style. Still, good leaders will generally share a few values, including a belief in transparency and determination to be successful while empowering others to do the same. An authentic leader will take the values that they live by and translate them to a purpose. This purpose dictates the way that they guide others and move toward company-wide goals.
Throughout this process, it behooves a leader not to lose sight of the individuals that they work with. It can be difficult to realize that, in stressful situations, that team members are going through much of the same pressures as you. Being just when it comes to working with disgruntled employees will earn respect and foster an environment of kindness amongst your team.
Leadership is a human endeavor, and because of this, the best leaders act like people instead of overinflated caricatures of bosses. Authenticity is the way to bridge this gap, with leaders acting as members of the team instead of just overseers, and working with subordinates to overcome challenges. The authentic leader is committed to their own ethics and purpose, and willing to pour themselves into the work that they do.