The World of Work Project

Becoming an Authentic Leader

Becoming an authentic leader requires time, effort and focus on character and personal development. Coaching may help.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Becoming an Authentic Leader

Here’s a pattern, just not of behaviors

Authentic leadership is a specific behavioral pattern of leadership that includes: clarity of values, self-awareness, balanced processing, relational transparency, authentic behavior and an internalized moral perspective.

Becoming an authentic leader isn’t simply a case of reading and learning some theory. Instead, becoming an authentic leader requires investing some effort and time in developing your underlying character.

Who is authentic leadership for

Firstly, the behavioral pattern of authentic leadership can be adopted by anyone, regardless of their position. Individuals at all levels within an organization can adopt these behaviors, as can volunteers in the third sector, members of teams or even individuals just looking to improve their relationships with their friends and family.

Everyone can choose to adopt the behaviors of authentic leadership.

Self-development is key to being an authentic leader

Practice, self-awareness, reflection and other techniques can help you become an authentic leader. Activities such as identifying your values, being mindful of your impacts on others, being truly present and listening to others and focusing on being honest in your transactions with others can all help you transition towards authentic leadership.

The behavioral pattern of authentic leadership isn’t simply a checklist to be followed. To be an authentic leader you need to believe and embody the behavioral pattern, not just mimic it. To become an authentic leader takes time, focus, determination and often emotional effort.

Challenges you may face along the way

Becoming an Authentic Leader may be difficult, and to some extent your efforts will be shaped by the culture you’re operating in and your own leaders’ behaviors. Sticking to your beliefs as an Authentic Leader when your peers or bosses embody the darker traits of leadership may be difficult, and you may feel you that doing so doesn’t help you.

You might face some challenges.

Coaching for development

Professional leadership coaching can help people become authentic leaders. It’s important for your coaching relationship to focus on “transformational” coaching (reflecting inwards on your behaviors, motivations and sense of self) as opposed to more “solution-focused” coaching (guiding towards a goal).

There are many coaches in the world, so choose well. The industry is not well regulated. If choosing a coach always speak to them before engaging them, be clear about what you’re looking for and don’t be afraid to cease working with them it if doesn’t work for you.

Professional coaching isn’t the only way to get support. People can also benefit from friends, families, mentors, community groups, mindfulness practices and religious or community leaders.

The World of Work Project View

We believe that authentic leadership is a very useful construct and one that really does create better, more effective leaders and leaders who create better outcomes for the individuals that follow them.

Unfortunately, we also believe that many large organizations create environments which make it very hard to be an authentic leader within. This doesn’t mean that individuals shouldn’t try to authentic leaders, it just means that they may have a bigger challenge than they should.

The last thing we want to emphasize is that, though we are coaches ourselves, we have some reservations about the world of coaching. There are some great coaches out there, but there are some poor ones as well. We would recommend having some coaching, but caution to choose you coach carefully. We suggest anyone who is looking for coaching speak to several coaches before choosing one.

Sources and further reading

Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.

This post is based primarily on conversations with authentic leadership coaches and this article on authentic leadership. We have also used our own professional experience for further details.

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