Uncover Your Authentic Leadership

With enormous change happening in the world (social, environmental, economic), we’re in need of authentic leaders who are change agents and who can link purpose, passion, and people together and achieve productivity, profit and prosperity.

Authentic: adj; not false or copied; genuine; real
Leadership: noun; the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group

An authentic leader motivates and inspires others by being their true self and leading through actions driven by their values. Knowing your authentic self requires the courage and honesty to open up and examine your experiences.

It’s actually much easier than it sounds — and regardless if you desire to be a leader or not — the opportunity for personal growth is tremendous.

Here are some keys to developing your authentic leadership, which I’ve detailed based on personal experience and published academic content…

Improve your self-awareness and see yourself as others do.

When working to understand your self-awareness, start by finding the courage and honesty to open up and deeply examine your personal life experiences. The key here is to frame these experiences in a way which you’re not just mindlessly recalling the events, but rather examining them closely with the intention of understanding how they shape who you are today. Generally these events are in a constant cycle running in the background of our subconscious, but we must also make a conscious effort to proactively analyze our life story.

A concept that I appreciate is the idea of ‘being the same you’ in your home if there were no walls. Do you act the same in your bedroom as you do in the kitchen? Do you act the same in the garage by yourself as you do in the living room when hosting company?

“Think of your life as a house, with a bedroom for your personal life, a study for your professional life, a family room for your family, and a living room to share with your friends. Can you knock down the walls between these rooms and be the same person in each of them?”

Not only does this offer insight into how others view you, but elevates your self-awareness as you’re more conscious of your behavior.

Gather feedback about yourself and your leadership style.

In your continued efforts to gain perspective as to how others see you, be intentional about listening to feedback as much as possible, especially critical feedback.

With plentiful experience working in smaller project teams (4–5 people) in both academic and professional settings, I’ve explored a variety of peer review methods and variations of each.

For quick, actionable insights, I’ve found in-person 360 Feedback sessions to be extremely valuable, as they generally paint your most recent picture. I’ve grown especially fond of them due to the intimacy of the process, which oftentimes helps cultivate more meaningful relationships between teammates.

To gather deeper, more holistic feedback on your unique strengths and talents, the Reflected Best Self exercise is an excellent tool. It does take considerable time and energy to manage the RBS, but it sets you up to create an action plan for leveraging your true strengths (based on feedback stories from the most significant people in your life).

But ultimately, for me, the most important piece is utilizing a trusted support network of friends and mentors who also prioritize portraying their authentic selves — and appreciate you for who you are, not what you are. It’s important to keep these people close, be transparent and honest with them, and facilitate and maintain two-way connections where the respected values are reciprocated.

Developing leadership is a process. It requires time . No single activity will automatically make it happen. However, within ourselves, each and every one of us possess the core components to get started on the path towards realizing our authentic leadership.