3 Steps to Become a Remarkably Authentic Leader
Drop the masquerade, acknowledge your fears, and allow your authenticity to inspire others.
Not all well-intentioned leaders have the impact they desire.
Some individuals find themselves in leadership positions despite lacking the confidence and experience to be effective in their roles. They may enjoy the title, but come to loath the responsibility of managing people — a much more challenging skill than simply maintaining their own performance.
Many others, however, enjoy standing in front of a group of people. They do their best to manage group tasks, maximize communication, and develop a cohesive, high-performing team.
Despite these aspirations, they may have other shortcomings outside of their awareness that prevent them from developing into an effective leader.
The best leaders are authentic.
When a true leader walks into the room, you feel the power of their presence.
They command your attention in a way that communicates their confidence and self-trust. They give you permission to be yourself. And they inspire everyone to push themselves to the next level of their professional development.
The best leaders know that each person performs at their highest level when their individual strengths are maximized within the context of a shared vision of everyone working together.
Read the three steps below to become an authentic leader and maximize your impact.
1. Confront your existential position and emotional limitations
While no one wants to think about or acknowledge how their drive for financial success stems from a denial of mortality or childhood wounds that haven’t been addressed, you need to face your fears if you want to be an integrated, authentic leader.
It’s only by staring death in the face that you can feel the responsibility you have to live a meaningful life.
As the authors of our own existence, we have the ability to choose how we live and what we value, but we also have to acknowledge our responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions.
When you confront your existential realities — of death, isolation, freedom, and meaning — you discover your underlying philosophies. The way you choose to live in spite of those realities determines your values. And your values become the foundation for your leadership approach.
Similarly, if you’re unaware of the wounds driving your compensatory behavior, you’ll set yourself up for a life of unhappiness and fail to develop the powerful presence of someone who truly knows themselves and what’s motivating their behavior.
2. Reflect on your value-formation process
Learning more about your own development highlights the way you frame business decisions.
Most leaders develop a way of viewing themselves, others, and the world that are rooted in early experiences.
Depending on how your family transmitted values around money, for example, you may have difficulty stomaching financial risk despite the possibility for significant returns.
If your lived experiences taught you that authoritarian discipline and criticism results in effective behavior modification and increased productivity, you may be more likely than other leaders to challenge employees in manners that they may find humiliating.
If you grew up in a family that had difficulty engaging in uncomfortable conversations and conflict, you may be take a passive style of communicating criticisms and not be effective with people who didn’t grow up in that same emotional context.
The more you can reflect on how your values were created, the more awareness you’ll bring to the decision table and the more you’ll know about your own leadership style.
3. Encourage others to be themselves (while working towards a common goal)
The social domain of authentic leadership acknowledges that people are constricted by the context of organizational culture.
If each person had no desire to conform to the business, it’s unlikely that work would be productive and efficient, as some individual sacrifice is needed for the wellbeing of the group.
While you and your employees may not be able to be the same person you are within each of your respective homes, it’s important that you each have the space to remain rooted in your true selves within the work environment.
Great leaders navigate social restrictions by staying grounded in what makes them unique and living in accordance to their own values.
Leaders with a genuine sense of authenticity gives others permission to move beyond themselves and become meaningful contributors to the company.
Drop the masquerade.
If you want to lead others, then you need to embrace your true self and live according to your values.
After confronting the ultimate truths of life, you can align your professional aspirations with your personal philosophy.
When your behaviors are congruent with your genuine way-of-being in the world, you have the ability to influence others by encouraging them to be themselves.
And when other people feel permission to be themselves in your presence, you have the opportunity to develop into the leader you’ve always wanted to become.
(A previous version of this article first appeared in Inc Magazine)