What is an Authentic Leader? Definition and Characteristics

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 31, 2022

Published November 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When trying to improve your leadership skills, you may want to know how to become a more authentic leader. This leadership style requires integrity and self-awareness. By knowing how to demonstrate this type of leadership, you can improve company culture and contribute to the organization's long-term goals. In this article, we define authentic leadership, explain why it's important, provide you with several characteristics of authentic leadership, and explore how to become a leader with authenticity.

What is an authentic leader?

An authentic leader refers to leaders who display transparency and integrity at work. These professionals are honest with their coworkers, supervisors, and employees. If you display authentic leadership, you may experience stronger relationships with those around you, and may inspire your colleagues to work more authentically. These leaders are important because they encourage open communication with teams and increase overall morale. If you demonstrate this leadership style, you help ensure that all colleagues have the opportunity to express their opinion. This improves overall company culture and provides a positive impression of your brand.

Here are several components to consider regarding this leadership style:

Self-awareness

These leaders require self-awareness, which allows them to perform self-assessments to identify their own strengths and weaknesses. Professionals who display authentic leadership use the tools around them to build self-awareness. For example, they may ask their colleagues and team members for feedback about their leadership.

Related: How to Be an Inspiring Leader in Six Steps (With Traits)

Balanced processing

Balanced processing refers to the ability to analyze relevant data objectively. By exhibiting authentic leadership, you consider both supporting and opposing opinions when making decisions with teams. This helps you mitigate potential conflicts by ensuring all parties involved in projects and tasks feel heard. Balanced processing typically encourages employees to provide you with feedback.

Relational transparency

Those who display authentic leadership are transparent when communicating and interacting with others. This also requires honesty when sharing their own opinions and thoughts. When assigning projects, leaders show authenticity by providing employees with clear guidelines. You can do this by discussing possible obstacles with employees and by taking responsibility for unclear tasks. Exhibiting transparency also ensures that you remain honest with your supervisors. When issues arise, these leaders take responsibility for their actions and ensure colleagues and team members can rely on them to display this responsibility.

Internalized moral perspective

The internalized moral perspective allows these leaders to prioritize company needs. As someone who shows authentic leadership, you consider how to accomplish company needs and how to ensure success through those accomplishments. For example, you may increase your workload if your colleagues feel overwhelmed to ensure project completion.

Related: 14 Great Questions to Ask Leaders for Career Growth

Why is authentic leadership important?

Leaders who prioritize authenticity are important because they promote open communication with team members and maintain successful professional relationships. This leadership style ensures team members feel heard because you frequently ask for their opinion and address any concerns they have. When team members feel appreciated, they might subsequently work harder and increase overall productivity. This can improve company culture by improving positivity and employee wellbeing.

What are the characteristics of authentic leadership?

Below are some critical factors to remember when prioritizing authenticity as a leader:

Consider the whole company

Leaders who prioritize authenticity consider the company holistically and how they can improve its processes and employee satisfaction. If you want to show this leadership style, consider how you can contribute to the company's long-term goals. You can also determine how you motivate your team to contribute to the company holistically.

Related: What Is Autocratic Leadership?

Demonstrate consistency

Leaders who exhibit authenticity are consistent in their leadership style and in their goals. To demonstrate this leadership style, consider your values and whether you show consistency in them. These leaders maintain the same values regardless of the situations, which helps ensure all colleagues and employees know which values to expect from their leaders. This increases your overall reliability and earns the respect of those around you.

Related: How to Be a Lead at Work (With Steps)

Establish self-awareness

Leaders with authenticity display self-awareness in every aspect of their work. They understand their strengths and weaknesses, which allows them to delegate tasks to others. For example, if you don't have significant knowledge of technology, you can delegate tasks that require this knowledge to employees with more technology skills. This both provides employees with confidence and shows them you recognize their skill set.

Knowing when to delegate also improves the overall quality of the project by ensuring team members accomplish tasks that require their unique skills. By displaying self-awareness, you can improve company culture by providing employees with more opportunities to showcase their skills, which can improve the company as a whole.

Related: How to Improve Self-Awareness (With Steps and Tips)

How to become a leader with authenticity

Here's a list of steps you can take to improve your authenticity in leadership:

1. Practice self-awareness

You can become a leader with authenticity by practicing your self-awareness and performing self-audits. There are several aspects to consider when trying to use self-awareness in the workplace. Here's how you can demonstrate this characteristic:

Remain open-minded

You can demonstrate self-awareness by remaining open-minded, which also allows you to consider the emotions of others. This is because open-minded leaders consider multiple perspectives and ask their team members and colleagues for ideas. By showing open-mindedness, you can help improve projects and tasks by evaluating a range of viewpoints.

Demonstrate mindfulness

Those with authenticity exhibit self-awareness by evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. If you're not sure which areas require further improvement, you can ask your colleagues and supervisors for their input. Being mindful also requires you to understand when you have too many tasks and responsibilities. When this happens, reach out to your supervisors to obtain assistance.

Related: 10 Leader Characteristics (With Development Instructions)

Remain focused

An essential aspect of showing self-awareness is recognizing when you lose focus and making efforts to refocus yourself. By remaining focused, you can complete tasks more efficiently and promote productivity in the workplace by showing colleagues and team members your overall expectations. Consider taking regular breaks where you spend time on personal matters to help keep your mind focused on work when you return.

Set boundaries

Leaders with self-awareness and authenticity know when to set boundaries at work to prevent feeling overwhelmed and overworked. These boundaries also ensure your personal life doesn't extend to the workplace. You can create boundaries by ensuring your professional life ends at the end of your work shift. Consider telling your colleagues and supervisors that you're unavailable to answer any correspondence related to work after your shift.

Know your triggers

Those who have self-awareness understand their emotional triggers and can identify their emotions as they arise. Authentic leaders prioritize their emotional needs and honour their triggers because they know these emotions can affect their overall work. To illustrate authentic leadership, consider whether you know how to adjust your triggers and learn to work with them rather than repressing them.

Related: How to Boost Leadership Skills through Self-Awareness

2. Identify and act on your values

Leaders who demonstrate authenticity prioritize their values and attempt to act on them. If you don't know which values you prioritize, consider which aspects of your life are most important. Understanding your ethics and values allows you to set boundaries with those around you because they understand your opinion and priorities. You may also want to consider how your ethics compare to those of the company. This can help you strengthen your leadership by showing your ability to demonstrate the ethical standards of the group.

For example, if maintaining company culture is one of your values, you can display authentic leadership by implementing team-building activities in the workplace. This helps build respect among your team and empowers your colleagues to work together.

3. Develop communication skills

Leaders with strong authenticity have strong communication skills and develop strong interpersonal relationships with team members. These communication skills ensure you provide others with clear guidelines and feedback during the completion of projects and tasks. You can also use your communication skills to illustrate effective storytelling, send efficient emails, and listen actively to others.

Related: How to Develop Effective Leadership Communication Skills

4. Find a mentor

When establishing your authentic leadership, you can also find a mentor to provide you with advice and feedback. These mentors ensure you're the best leader possible and challenge your overall values and leadership style to help you grow. Leadership mentors consider the company's goals, along with yours, to determine how you can contribute to the long-term wellbeing of the company.

Related: How to Find a Mentor Step by Step

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