Susan C Foster

How to Be An Authentic Leader

– Posted in: Leadership


The King!  Or not...

The King! Or not…

Just because I saw him in Vegas doesn’t mean it can’t be the King.

How do I know this isn’t really Elvis? Not just because I do know he’s departed this earthly world. It wasn’t “quite” him.

This guy makes a pretty good Elvis. The right clothes, the right hair. And hey, Elvis did play in Vegas sometimes, didn’t he?

But he didn’t have quite the same look. Not quite the same mannerisms. Not real.

Not authentic.

Of course, I had to stifle the “life/business coach” in me who really wanted to go over and ask him his thought process for a career choice! But it did start me thinking: When leading people, when and where have I not been authentic? And when I’m not, is it this obvious?

Authenticity: Merriam-Webster defines it as (1) not false, or imitation; and (2) true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.

If we are going to be true to our personality, spirit, or character as leaders we must:

  1. Tell the truth to our team. Authentic leaders say what they mean and they mean what they say. When sensitive issues are going on that you can’t talk about, just tell them: “I’ll always tell you what I can tell you, and it will be the truth. When I can’t tell you, I’ll say that, too.”
  2. Role model the behavior we want to see in others. Authentic leaders respect their team and co-workers and their contributions. These behaviors become the norm in organizations where the leaders set this expectation and role model it for others.
  3. Care about the people who work for us. Authentic leaders know that people care about the organization when they know the leader cares about them.

We don’t show our authenticity by what we say, but by how we behave and if it’s authentic with what we say.

Our employees and colleagues know when we are authentic, and when we aren’t. So do our family and friends.

And they won’t be fooled, any more than I thought this guy was Elvis.

Lance Sectarian said: “Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart and feet—thinking, saying, feeling and doing the same thing, consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.”

Are you an authentic leader? How do you check in with yourself to ensure you are being authentic?


2 Comments… add one
Jeffrey Frye July 17, 2014, 11:56 pm

Susan: Interesting article. I believe I’m authentic and have difficulty not being so which I believe leads to how I rub some people the wrong way. I speak my mind, I do what I say, and I’ll stand up for others especially those on my team. I think it takes much more energy to not be authentic that anytime I’ve tried it because of a situation it was physically draining. However if you are authentic but surrounded by others who aren’t then you really stick out like a sore thumb…and nobody likes a sore thumb.

The way I look at it someone has to speak up so why shouldn’t it be me to lead by example.

Susan July 18, 2014, 12:20 am

Jeffrey, I believe you ARE authentic–you are refreshing in your honesty and your people know you support them. I agree–trying to be something else is very energy draining. Please keep on leading by example and don’t let others who aren’t deter you. You lead by example, and you are going to make even bigger impacts as an executive in the near future.

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