From what we’ve discussed so far, it should be clear: Authentic leadership doesn’t “just happen.” It takes a sustained effort on your part to become the leader that you and others around you deserve.
One way to gauge the level of authentic leadership is to look around. Do the people working for the leader in question respect them? Are they loyal? Transactional leadership can make this difficult. People are more concerned with completing the task in front of them and avoiding some sort of punishment than in building up relationships. They look for new leadership and feel no sense of loyalty. And who would blame them?
Team members seek to emulate the leadership qualities espoused at the top. If, for example, they see a leader who is self-interested and concerned only with profit maximization, the same mindset will be rife among the ranks. An authentic leader must lead by example. That creates a space where the other members of your organization can also be their own authentic selves. That’s the environment most conducive to innovation, collaboration and success.
This relates to our earlier discussion of diversity in the workplace. No longer can it simply be a checked box or a quota of various life experiences. Instead of glossing over diversity and seeking a homogenous workplace, emphasize the unique values and experiences that each member of the team brings to the table. Allowing everyone, from the newest employee to the founder, to be their authentic self will yield positive results.
It may sound easy to declare one style better than another in the abstract, but what about in the real world? Take it from one of the most successful women in history: Oprah Winfrey has said, “The secret is authenticity. The reason people fail is because they’re pretending to be something they’re not.”
It’s not only better to be authentic; in many ways, it’s easier. Think of how much effort it takes to put on airs rather than to just be yourself. Authenticity will increase efficiency and bring about a more positive work environment for everyone. Isn’t it likely that your team will work harder and accomplish more if they actually like the person for whom they work? Or, at the very least, if they understand who the leader is and know that person is sincere in their interactions? Don’t underestimate how much of a sea change an authentic leader can be for your organization.
Here’s one basic tool you can use today to make the transition from a transactional leader to an authentic one: Find clarity in your goal.
If you understand what you’re trying to accomplish, you don’t need to worry about contorting yourself to be something you’re not. Set your sights on a goal and fight toward it by being your true self.
If you can clearly articulate what you’re trying to accomplish (think back to our chapter on vision!) then you will find a workplace atmosphere that’s far better suited for success. Just like Dwight Eisenhower, you’ll know the value of each person in your office and how best to use their skills. If we put a veil over the way we are, there’s no way to succeed. Or any success that’s found will be somewhat muted in comparison to what could be. Why handcuff your potential?