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Authentic Leadership: Aligning Values and Actions

To find our most impactful and fulfilling version of leadership, one quality is always key – authenticity. Brené Brown, bestselling author and researcher on vulnerability and courage, beautifully captures the essence of authentic leadership with her quote, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

As an authentic leader, we bring the whole of ourselves to what we do and, as the Journal of Business Ethics reports, when we do this we inspire greater trust, employee engagement and greater ethical behaviour.

What do we mean by Authentic Leadership?

Authentic leadership is not a one-size-fits-all concept; rather, it’s a deeply personal and unique expression of your true self in a leadership role. It involves aligning your values, beliefs, and actions, fostering a genuine and transparent connection with oneself and others. When we step up into leadership roles, especially as women, we can feel pressured to conform to the expectations of everyone around us. This makes us shy away from fully expressing who we are and what we believe in. Fitting in feels like the safer option.

Authentic leaders stand out by staying true to their values and as a result, have a significant impact on their teams, their customers and their organisations successes.

This authenticity in leadership requires a daily commitment to how we choose to show up. As Brené Brown captured in her quote, we need to shed societal expectations and allow a level of vulnerability, stepping into courage and owning our imperfections as well as our strengths. This approach is a constant journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, which can feel challenging but also creates great rewards both for ourselves and those we lead.

What does Authentic Leadership look like?

Self-awareness

Authentic leadership begins with a deep understanding of oneself. Self-aware leaders recognise their strengths, weaknesses, and values. This awareness forms the foundation for consistent and authentic decision-making.

Transparency

Authentic leaders are open and transparent about their thoughts, intentions, and actions. They communicate openly, sharing both successes and challenges, fostering an environment of trust and openness.

Alignment

Authentic leaders will show consistency in how they align their words and actions with their values. Put simply, they walk their talk each and every day. Leaders who can show this version of alignment build high levels of credibility and a strong sense of trust among their teams.

Courageous Vulnerability

It is no coincidence that Brené Brown talks both about vulnerability and authenticity as the two go hand in hand. We cannot be fully authentic if we are not also prepared  to be vulnerable. We too often perceive vulnerability as a weakness when it is in fact a huge strength. Leaders who can have the vulnerability to admit mistakes, seek feedback and share their authentic selves create a culture where others feel empowered to do the same and the whole team can thrive and grow.

Empathy

Authentic leaders demonstrate genuine empathy for others. They actively listen, understand diverse perspectives, and connect with the experiences of those they lead. This empathy fosters strong, authentic relationships and bolsters psychological safety for others to bring their whole selves to work.
 

What is the impact of Authentic Leadership?

Personal success and fulfilment

As women, we often navigate the world of work by wearing masks and trying to show up in a way that fits in. This can be draining to the point of exhaustion. When we step into authenticity, we find that everything often feels easier as we are not fighting with ourselves over everything we do. From this space, we can connect more deeply with our colleagues and create success and joy in our work every day.

Enhanced Employee Engagement & Culture

Authentic leaders create a workplace where employees feel seen, heard and valued. This sense of belonging enhances engagement, and commitment to the team and the organisation, and drives better performance and job satisfaction for everyone. Authentic leadership sets the tone for a positive culture where trust, collaboration and open communication can thrive.

Innovation and Creativity

The vulnerability that authentic leaders bring can inspire their teams to greater levels of innovation and creativity. When people feel safe and comfortable expressing their unique ideas and perspectives, alongside experimenting, making mistakes and seeking feedback, then new ideas can flow.
 

Resilience in adversity

Authentic leaders can provide a stable foundation in uncertain times. Their openness and honesty inspire true resilience in their team – the ability to share fears and support each other to be courageous and to overcome obstacles.
 
Authentic leadership is not a leadership style; it’s a way of being – a commitment to aligning our actions with our values, embracing vulnerability and fostering genuine connection. When we can step into our true authentic selves, we not only free ourselves to be at our best but we can bring our team along with us, inspiring them to grow, to collaborate, to innovate and to succeed. When we fully embrace our authentic leadership, we not only become more effective leaders but also inspire those around us to lead with courage, compassion and authenticity.