[Excerpt from The Ordinary Leader]
Many positive adjectives can precede the word leadership – servant leadership, empathetic leadership, and compassionate leadership to name a few. The adjective I like the most is authentic. For me, authenticity ties together so many of the words used to describe good leadership. Being authentic is about expressing yourself congruently – the person others see is who you really are. Authenticity means being genuine and true to who you are. You are not a pretender or an imitation of someone else. You don’t exaggerate or minimize who you are or what you believe in.
This is my answer to the question: If I were to die tomorrow, how would I want people to remember me? I hope that people see me as authentic. I may not be the most empathetic leader, and I don’t think servant leadership describes me, but I do hope people see me as an authentic leader. I hope they see that I am who I say I am. I’m no different at home than I am at work. There is congruency between what I think and what I say.
While it’s not an exhaustive list, these are some of the key components of authenticity I identify with and strive for:
• Genuineness: This is the most important component of authenticity. Authentic leaders don’t communicate using a hidden agenda. They are honest and straightforward in their interactions with others, regardless of the circumstances.
• Integrity: Authentic leaders walk the talk and always keep their word. They have an ethical core, and they are honest, trustworthy, and believable. Regardless of who is watching (or if nobody is watching at all), they will do the right thing when faced with difficult dilemmas.
• Compassion: Authentic leaders value the welfare of employees and are not afraid to demonstrate kindness and concern. Compassionate leaders treat people at work as they would like
to be treated themselves.
• Vulnerability: Authentic leaders are not afraid to be open and honest about their weaknesses. They admit that they are not perfect and that there are things they don’t know. Vulnerability
also means not being afraid to show emotions or connect with employees on a human level.
Authenticity is the alignment of what we say with what we do –consistently. Authenticity does not have an on-off switch – we are either authentic all the time or not at all.
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