The organizational benefits of authentic leadership were just alluded to, but they bear emphasis.
The concepts of diversity and inclusion in the workplace are relatively recent additions. Companies went from begrudgingly including people of diverse background to making it a focus of their business. Studies have now shown that diverse workplaces have increased productivity, are more effective and are more successful.
But does the inclusion of diverse individuals mean that a workforce must shrink away from what makes those individuals unique? Does a woman need to adopt the traits of a man to be successful in business? No.
Authentic leadership traits actually point us in a different direction. In fact, to succeed in business and elsewhere it’s better for each individual to lean into what makes them unique rather than trying to mask it. Remember: The goal is authenticity. Masking our differences won’t make things easier; in fact, it can prove to be a barrier to success.
Individuals of ever-more diverse backgrounds are assuming leadership roles in fields in which the c-suite was previously reserved for white men alone. In taking up the mantle, some folks have tried to emulate what past leaders have displayed; unfortunately, that leads to inadvertently inauthentic leadership.
You need to learn to trust that you’re good enough as you are and move from a mindset of imposter syndrome to being a successful leader on your own terms. The new leaders are just as qualified as the former ones, and embracing the fact that a diversity of backgrounds is a value added to the organization is part of that mindset shift. Most all of us have at least a hint of fear that we’ll not be accepted as we are. But if you don’t present your true self when you take on a leadership role, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
In the last section on defining authentic leadership, we compared it to transactional leadership. Depending on the structure of your organization or business, it may lean more toward one direction or another. Do individuals have some degree of freedom in accomplishing their tasks, or is there a constant feeling of micromanagement from higher-ups?
Transactional leadership can be somewhat effective in the short term. If your team is on a short deadline and every person needs to be submitting their piece of the work in a timely fashion, it may be necessary to check in frequently and prod them toward completion. But that process can easily become self-perpetuating.
If you constantly find your teams are working on tight deadlines and require supervision and goading to complete tasks, the issue may not be with them. You should take some time to evaluate your leadership style, and the leadership styles of the office in general, to determine whether your entire organization could benefit from moving toward authentic leadership.
Authentic leadership can be difficult to achieve because the steps toward it require work. Chief among them is trust. If you and your team don’t trust one another, it’s impossible to work in an atmosphere of authentic leadership. If the style of interaction is inauthentic, implicit in that is a lack of trust. A team may not trust their leader, or the members of the team might not trust one another. In any team, business or organization, that’s an issue.
Remember: As a leader, you’re entrusting others to accomplish that which needs to be done. You can’t run a business if the CEO micromanages every employee; it simply can’t run effectively. This is true in an organization of any size. Trust isn’t a one-way street. As a leader, you must trust the people that work for you just as they must trust you. It’s not an overnight process; it takes time to develop. But for the success of your enterprise in the long run, it’s something you can’t live without.