Leading through authenticity

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Do you consider yourself a leader? Leadership takes on many forms from leading a team of employees, to leading a sports team, a group of friends and even self-leadership. Often we don’t recognise when we are in such a responsible role but we all know that how we act has implications for the way others view us, as well as the outcomes we are trying to achieve.

I have worked with many different types of leaders in my time, some who have encouraged their teams by showing support, being available and being open and honest. Others have been less supportive and more directional, i.e. providing tasks to be completed with little direction or information. The best and most successful leaders I have seen are those that have the former style. This is because these types of leaders share a vision, provide guidance, and care about their team. It’s through this that they get real results.

It’s commonly now known that positive and supportive leadership leads to increased productivity and reduced turnover. Why is this? Well its because leaders who don’t share their vision or provide this type of environment often leave us feeling uninspired, less valued and disengaged. A positive leadership style makes the work more enjoyable, we feel respected and treated as adults, and we see where we fit in to the overall vision. This type of leadership is often associated with the term ‘authentic leadership’.

Authentic leadership is all about being legitimate and having open and honest relationships. Leading from a place that is right for all, not according to self-interests. Therefore by building trust and generating enthusiastic support from their teams, authentic leaders are able to improve individual and team performance.

So how do you become an authentic leader? Well firstly you need to understand and act in accordance with your own values. Personal values are our judgment on what is important in life. They drive our behavior as well as providing a standard to which we hold other’s behaviour. They are our authentic self, what we hold important in our lives.
Authentic leaders uphold their own values when making decisions and taking actions. They look for opportunities to align themselves with activities that support their own beliefs. This is not always easy, especially in a work environment. Often we are asked to do things that may not fit with our own idea of what is right. These actions may also hold consequences for others that we are leading or working with. So how do you balance this? Well it takes courage. Courage to stand up for what you believe in and courage to be honest with those you are working with.

Of course there are times when its not possible to give people all the information you have as it may have negative consequences for them or the business. In cases like this its important to act with respect and consideration, provide what information you can and ensure proper planning is in place to disseminate information and take actions that are appropriate and humanistic.

By acting in this manner you lead by example, you build a team of committed workers, players, friends and you create an honest and open environment where people are not afraid to speak their truth and ask for help. Courageous people pull others along with them and provide benefits for others, just think of people like Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai, the girl shot by the Taliban for pursuing the right to an education. I know the kind of leader I’d rather work with.

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