Bill George, Harvard University professor the author of the book, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, states that leadership programs should put its efforts to training leaders to develop their authenticity instead of trying to redefine what authenticity is.
In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, Herminia Ibarra suggests that:((Harvard Business Review: The Authenticity Paradox))
“Authenticity has emerged as the gold standard for leadership.”
It is in a leader’s best interest to work on refining their authenticity to help develop their employee’s attitudes, commitment, and creativity, which can also lead to an improvement in their corporate performance.
In this article, you will learn six ways of developing your authenticity as a leader.
Why Should You Strategically Develop Authenticity?
The short answer is because naive authenticity can backfire.
Critics of Authentic leadership, University of Pennsylvania’s professor Adam Grant, said that “be yourself” is actually terrible advice unless you are Oprah.”((The New York Times: Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice.))
I fully agree with Grant that people may have thoughts and feelings for others that sometimes are better left unspoken.
Can you imagine what would happen to a unit’s culture if the leader explicitly says to his subordinates what he thinks about them, especially if those feelings are negative? Toxicity is the term to comes to my mind.
Stating to a colleague that her hair is ugly would not be great advice either, even though it would be an authentic statement and assuming that the leader believed that his colleague had ugly hair.
Much strategic planning has to occur for authentic leadership to work.
Before we talk about the six ways to assist you with developing your authenticity, it might be a good idea to strategize how you are going to develop this skillset.
To me, the process starts with understanding the differences in self-monitoring.
According to psychologist Mark Snyder, there are two types of monitoring: high and low self-monitors.((American Psychological Association: Self Monitoring: Appraisal and reappraisal))
We learn from Snyder that high self-monitors are characterized by being people who modify the way they present themselves to others socially by interpreting social clues. Their internal feelings and the outside world are not always in sync.
Low self-monitors are characterized by people who tend to behave according to their inner values and beliefs. This is an important consideration because depending on your type of self-monitoring, your ability to act authentically will vary.
Do you belong to the high or low self-monitors?
If you do not know, feel free to take the Self-Monitoring Scale.((Open-Source Psychometrics Project: Self-Monitoring Scale)) It might be quite beneficial for you to know this.
6 Ways to Develop Your Authenticity
To develop your authenticity, do these following activities and take notes on which ones worked the best for you. The following exercises are exactly what I do to refine my strategic authentic leadership style.
1. Ask for Honest Feedback
First and foremost, be humble enough to ask and listen to how your team members perceive you and your actions. You should remember that you are not perfect and that you have flaws like everyone else.
Keep in mind that the way you see yourself is not necessarily the way that others see you. When speaking with them, take notes. After speaking with them, engage in self-reflection, along with what they shared, and take action.
It is not always easy to receive honest feedback. Sometimes, receiving feedback may hurt our feelings, but this should not be the case. Learning to receive honest feedback without feeling hurt is an essential aspect of authentic leadership.
2. Work on Self-Awareness
As stated above, how you see yourself is not always in sync with how others see you. Engage in introspection once in a while. Self-reflection is an essential aspect of being an effective leader.
How is your tone of voice sounding like? Are you matching your words with your behaviors? How are you dressing up? How is your office arranged? Are they in alignment with your true persona?
The power of self-awareness is unlimited, and a high level of reflection is beneficial to most aspects of our lives. This makes it a critical characteristic if you want to be an authentic leader.
3. Analyze Your Life Story and Struggles
You need to better understand who you are in order to develop authenticity.
I was bullied in school and failed miserably academically in Brazil. But these experiences helped me become a caring leader who listens to the advice given by my team.
This applies to you too. What you experienced in life help define who you are now. And it does not matter if these are mostly bad experiences or good ones. What matters is how you view them and use them to improve yourself.
As Bill George would say:
“As leaders discover their truth, their True North, they gain confidence and resilience to face difficult situations.”((Harvard Business School: The Truth About Authentic Leaders))
4. Be Consistent
It is difficult to be authentic if your rhetoric is not consistent.
Be careful with contradicting yourself with directives and expectations. You must give clear directions to all your team members and have reasonable expectations of completion.
Being inconsistent with delivering messages to your team is likely to negatively impact your ability to build authenticity.
If you are not consistent in what you say, others will see you as a hypocrite, and this will negatively affect how others will see you and your leadership capabilities.
5. Appreciate Your Team’s Victories
Learn to think that victories, even small ones, are worth celebrating. Celebrating success is always a good policy.
Celebrating success authentically is a great practice. Give credit to team members when credit is due. Enable team members to share their personal victories as well. Provide a token of appreciation whenever possible.
Choose to be a celebratory hero instead of a quiet naysayer.
6. Practice Self-Discipline
Never, under any circumstance, scream. Screamers run the risk of finishing the long journey alone.
Work on minimizing your weaknesses, go for daily walks and take a break, practice social listening and accept the fact that you will make mistakes.((Forbes: 5 Proven Methods For Gaining Self Discipline)) It is okay as long as you have the discipline to fix the error.
No one starts fully disciplined already. Like most things, mastering self-discipline requires a lot of practice and patience.
If you are having a hard time disciplining your self, this article may help you build self-discipline: How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life
Stagnation will not help you with authentic leadership.
Leading others to perform to the best of their abilities is a task that leaders should strive for. What good leaders do is help their team reach higher levels of productivity by being more authentic.
What is your monitoring style? High or Low?
Keep learning. Ask for honest feedback and listen to what your team members tell you.
Work on self-awareness and how others see you. Engage in introspection and re-analyze your life story and struggles.
Be consistent with your speech, appreciate the accomplishments of your team members, and practice self-discipline. Be humble and never stop learning.
Authentic leadership, when developed strategically, can make you become the best leader you can be.