Authenticity has become something of a leadership buzzword in recent years, but what does an authentic leadership style involve?

Authenticity is closely linked with genuineness. An authentic leader is able to communicate to others something of their essential self which makes it difficult to appear authentic without actually being authentic. There is a need to work hard on self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Authenticity is a leadership quality that gains respect from employees, so how can it be developed?

Use communication effectively

To connect with employees, authentic leaders must ensure that they communicate in an open and credible manner. To do this, it’s important to believe in the message that is being delivered, otherwise, it could come across as being insincere. A genuine interest in the opinions and ideas of others and the encouragement of open discussion is also important. Leaders need to work hard to incorporate self-awareness and openness into communication.

Authenticity and believability are linked. Language that sounds like it’s come straight from a PR team meeting is best avoided. Overuse of jargon, or anything that sounds rehearsed, may be perceived as inauthentic.

Be open

Very often, business leaders feel the need to put up a professional front. But this can be emotionally draining and lead to a negative effect on performance levels. Authenticity can involve dropping some of this professional mask and being more open.

Being open can feel difficult in the leadership arena, where qualities like strength and toughness are valued because there will be those who view it as a sign of weakness. But, counter-intuitively, showing a degree of vulnerability can also be seen as a strength.

Match actions to words

Authenticity in action can be seen when a person’s deeds reflect the things they say, regardless of pressure from external sources, pressure and influences. An authentic leader’s actions remain consistent with their stated beliefs, desires and values. Authentic leaders are interested in results more than in money, or their own ego and power.

It’s important for an authentic leader to hold on to their own core values, even if they are aware that employees or stakeholders hold different views. This shows a principled attitude and a degree of reliability. An authentic leader can make tough, even unpopular decisions without it hurting his or her credibility.

It’s clear that developing authenticity as part of a leadership style involves self-awareness, consistency, sincere communication, and openness. Crucially, it must be backed up with correlating behaviour, because authenticity involves actions as well as words.