We listen to someone on stage. The message resonates yet we wonder if this person is really authentic.
We listen to an interview and the conversation seems authentic. Yet we wonder if a similar tenor of exchange happens in the privacy of their home or office.
We call individuals to be an authentic leader yet there may be as many definitions on what authenticity is as there are perspectives.
We hear someone bluster on and we grow tired. Yet being brash is who this person is. They are being authentic.
We hear of a leader really believing that working in an office is better for the organizational culture than working from home. We disagree. Yet this is the individual’s core belief. They are being authentic.
We want authentic leaders yet whose definition of authenticity applies?
With authenticity, we think:
- High integrity
Each is a characteristic and each is important. Who defines authenticity though? With some research, I found a TED Conversation in which the following question was posed – What does it mean to be authentic? There were 108 responses! There are varying views on authenticity.
In a recent Forbes blog by Jan Bruce, she highlighted three things leaders must do to stay authentic. Each are important elements. Actions define authenticity. For me, there needs to be more to define what makes someone authentic. A group of diverse individuals could outline many other actions authentic leaders should take. There isn’t a set standard of actions for authentic leaders.
Characteristics are important to being authentic, just as actions are. Interpretations vary though. What one finds authentic, another may not. The key may be found in how authenticity is realized. Authenticity needs to be a part of our very being. Interpretations may come and go. Distractions will definitely come and go.
What needs to be steadfast is our authentic being. We need to have an authentic intelligence about who we are as a leader and person. We need to be smart in how we engage and maintain our authenticity.
What Makes an Authentic Leader? 4 Ideas for Authentic Leadership Intelligence
There is a smartness to authentic leaders. Smartness does not mean all-knowing; it does mean approaching your leadership craft with an authentic intelligence, knowing the impact of how you lead. To develop this intelligence, highlighted below are four ideas to consider in building your authentic leadership capabilities.
Embedded empathy. Authenticity needs to be other-centered. If it is all about an individual, then the self-centeredness will eventually harm many more than any potential good done. In other words, authenticity needs to connect to others, understand one another, and raise each other up to do more in better ways. Authenticity and active empathy need to be tied tightly together. Empathy raises a leader to consider what works best for more than just one.
Enabled community. Empathy leads to a leader’s embrace of community. How a leader enables a greater community raises their authenticity because it moves from a one-dimensional view to a multi-dimensional one. More than this, whatever action we take as a leader has a multiplier effect. The multiplier effect needs to be an enabled community working toward a higher-purposed mission or goal. An enabled community holds a leader accountable and keeps their focus on what is best for a broader base of people.
Empowering beliefs. Every leader has a certain set of beliefs, whether defined or not. To be an authentically intelligent leader, the beliefs should be empowering, not limiting. Beliefs pursued by a leader need to pass a test of:
- Do they make others better?
- Do they call on others to raise their game in how they work, live, and lead?
Authentic leaders embody a belief system that empowers all to look beyond themselves and foster a respect-filled and trust-filled environment.
Preventing harm. Another key authentic leader idea is to always say and do things to prevent harm. The old principle of “do no harm” is as valid as ever. Authentic leaders do not incite others to act in harmful ways. Authentic leaders keep environments safe for honest, meaningful interactions and build cultures to encourage problem-solving, innovation, and productive working relationships.
Questions to Check Authentic Leadership Intelligence
This post is a work-in-progress. It is one of the reasons they are called ideas rather than principles of authentic leadership intelligence. I do believe we need to be open to how we view a leader’s authenticity. I also believe we need to think through what enables us to claim to be an authentic leader. If we don’t understand what our authenticity consists of, then we will likely get off track and become inconsistent and inauthentic. Our trustworthiness is put at risk.
To begin to sort through the state of our authentic leadership intelligence, we may need to begin with these questions:
- What percentage of our inner circle thinks very differently from me? When they do offer differing ideas, do I really hear and understand them? What practices do I have in place to really understand others and make connections outside my comfort zone? (empathy)
- How do my actions enable other worthy actions? What am I doing to gain positive momentum in moving initiatives forward? (community)
- What are my core belief? Which of my core beliefs raise others up in taking positive action? How am I setting an example of leading with my beliefs? Be specific. (beliefs)
- How am I ensuring no harm is being inflicted on teams in undertaking their goals and objectives? How am I building a culture of innovation and problem-solving? (do no harm)
More than actions and characteristics, I believe we need to have an authentic being and intelligence on what makes us real, positive, consistent influencers. So, the question is clear: What makes someone an authentic leader?