Authentic Leadership. Here’s how to make it more than a buzzword.

December 31, 2014
December 31, 2014 Joe Britto

Sometimes in the workshops we run, maybe somewhere in the middle or during breaks, the conversation turns to authentic leadership. About how we can make it more than a buzzword or empty phrase. When that happens it means something powerful. It means the group of people I’m with aren’t looking for models or techniques to lead, it means they’re looking for something more.

What I think those people are asking is, “How do I find the authentic leader in me?”

I’ve heard some people argue that since everything we do comes from us, that must mean everything we do is authentic. Authentic leadership is more than that. I’d say authentic leadership is about coming from the highest part of us. The part of us that answers “yes” to the question, “If everyone followed you, would you be proud of where you led them?”

Though it’s true everything we do is us, it’s not true that everything we do comes from the highest part of us. Or to say it another way, it’s not true that everything we do is authentic.

But how do we stay in a place of authenticity?

The Authenticity Continuum

Well here’s one way to think about doing just that.

Think about authenticity as being on a continuum. Not a continuum of more or less authentic, but a continuum of behaviours. On one end we have the behaviour of actively supporting what’s going on around us even if we don’t agree. We might do that because we think it’s what we’re supposed to do; because we’re afraid we might lose our job, or just because we think if everyone else agrees it must be right. Even if it feels wrong to us. On the other extreme we have the behaviour of saying nothing. Of doing nothing, and, as a result, allowing something to continue we know to be wrong.

And in the middle is authenticity. That’s the place where what we say and what we do is congruent with what we believe to be true.

The Fork In The Road

Imagine when an event happens in life a fork appears in the road ahead of us. And along with that fork there’s a feeling. It’s an important feeling because it’s the one that’s telling us what we really feel about what’s happening right now. And whether we listen to that feeling or not determines if the next thing we do is authentic.

That doesn’t mean just saying whatever we want to say. Being an authentic leader is more profound than being honest. But it’s a good place to start.

A Simple Tool

At Innate Leaders, we believe we all have the ability to lead with authenticity. It takes courage and practice. But where to start?

One place is with the feeling that accompanies the fork appearing in the road. See if you can locate that feeling in yourself. Where does it sit? Is it in your stomach? In your throat? Somewhere else? By taking time, perhaps even daily, to focus on that feeling you’ll connect with it.

And the more you connect with it the more familiar you’ll become with it. And the more familiar you become with it, the sooner you’ll recognise it. And the sooner you recognise it, the more time you’ll have to react. And the more time you have to react the greater the chance you’ll make a choice you’re proud of. And that will be an authentic choice.

Authentic Leadership Development

Authenticity is part of a diverse set of leadership skills that combine to create an effective and even charismatic leader. That’s why our Leadership Masterclasses draw on a range of leadership skills from emotional intelligence to strategic thinking; from facilitating behaviour change to creating leadership at all levels in your organization.


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