What Is Authentic Leadership? (Plus How To Practise It)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Leaders are essential components of an organisation because they help organise, guide and encourage team members while communicating the company's goals and visions. In a leadership role, it is helpful to employ the right strategies that allow you to be genuine in your guidance. Learning more about how you can use authenticity in your leadership roles may help you experience more success in your career. In this article, we discuss what authentic leadership is, share its importance, review the four components of this leadership style, list five steps on how to practise it and provide some characteristics of it.

What Is Authentic Leadership?

Authentic leadership is a management style for professionals who are aware of themselves, including their emotions, strengths and weaknesses. They emphasise transparency, sincerity and honesty when working with their team. Authentic leaders build genuine relationships and inspire trust and motivation in their members. Those who implement this management style ensure they are guiding their team by following ethics, which can include sharing information about the company with team members to help them make informed decisions about their careers. Additionally, they encourage team members to share their thoughts and opinions. This leadership style prioritises team members and includes them in decisions.

Related: What Is Leadership Trait Theory? (With Common Traits)

Why Is Authentic Leadership Important?

When you are an authentic leader, you can help promote open communication with your team. You can also encourage others to be themselves when you express your honest self in the workplace. This leadership style helps increase employee morale, as team members feel they can share their concerns and work to address them. You may also experience an increase in productivity when team members work together and they may feel more inclined to ask you questions about their tasks to ensure they complete them correctly.

Additionally, you may help promote healthy company culture because professionals feel more engaged, motivated and valued to share their thoughts and complete their assignments. Healthy company culture can also help create a positive voice for a company in the marketplace.

Related: What Is The Importance Of Leadership In The Workplace?

Four Components Of This Leadership Style

Here are the four major components of this leadership style:

  • Self-awareness: Authentic leaders assess their own weaknesses, strengths and values to be more authentic with team members. Practising self-awareness may include reflecting on yourself, asking for feedback and being aware of employees' emotions.

  • Balanced processing: When making team decisions, authentic leaders account for supporting and opposing opinions. This type of processing encourages employees to share their opinions and experiences and helps avoid potential challenges.

  • Relational transparency: Authentic leaders are transparent in their workplace relationships and remain honest when sharing their own thoughts and emotions, which may include offering constructive feedback to team members and admitting when they are wrong. By doing so, an authentic leader leads by example and fosters transparency among the team and organisation.

  • Internalised moral perspective: Authentic leaders put the company's needs over their own. The success of the organisation is an authentic leader's primary objective, even when that means the leader may face more challenges in their role.

Related: Business Ethics Examples (And How To Improve Them)

How To Practise Being An Authentic Leader

Often, an authentic leader commits to ongoing development. Here are some steps you can follow to practise being an authentic leader and incorporate it into the workplace:

1. Practise self-awareness

Self-awareness is how well an individual knows their ethics, values, morals, goals and interests. They understand their personality and how it may affect others. They can critically analyse their thoughts to determine why they are having them and determine how the thoughts are affecting their behaviours. Practising self-awareness can help you become a more authentic leader. This can also involve knowing when your thoughts and emotions may not align with your internal self.

Some techniques you can use to foster self-awareness include:

  • Mediating to enhance general awareness and ponder self-reflecting questions

  • Journaling your thoughts

  • Asking for constructive feedback from mentors, coworkers, friends, family members or other leaders

  • Investing in personal and professional development by attending courses and workshops

Related: What Is Self-Awareness? (And How To Become More Self-Aware)

2. Identify your values

Values are how you determine the importance of an action, trait or belief. Employing your values and being committed to an ethical way of leading is another way you can practise this type of leadership. Knowing your own ethical code and the company's ethics can help strengthen your leadership skills and instil trust in your team members. To determine your values, think about what is most important to you. You can journal your thoughts or meditate. Think about the leaders that inspire you and determine why. It may be because you align with their values and wish to replicate them.

Some leadership values can include:

  • Empathy

  • Humility

  • Respect

  • Passion

  • Communication

  • Integrity

  • Personal development

Related: Core Values: Overview And Examples

3. Try leading by example

Leading by example is committing to the actions you wish to see others do in your group. When you try to lead by example, it may help others realise if you can do something, so can they. It can inspire personal development and passion. To lead by example, try to act on the plans you expressed because it is a powerful means of leadership. It can help your team learn to trust and respect you. Committing to your word can also help inspire your team members to do the same in their roles.

When you and your team members follow through on your commitments, it can help increase job satisfaction among employees and enhance high-quality productivity for a company.

Related: 7 Leadership Theories For Career Growth

4. Enhance your communication skills

Communication is the ability to express a message to others clearly and concisely. As a leader, your team members may expect you to have strong communication skills and express updates, instructions and other important guidelines throughout the workday. Additionally, as a leader, you might interact with several professionals outside of your team, making communication skills vital. To enhance your communication, think about your message before expressing it. This can help you consider your audience and use simple language to avoid jargon in your message.

Important skills to strengthen include:

  • Listening actively

  • Storytelling

  • Receiving and providing constructive feedback

  • Using written communication and verbal communication

Related: Communication Skills In Leadership: Importance And Benefits

5. Find and use a trustworthy mentor

Often, a mentor is an expert professional in your industry who you trust and look to for advice when navigating your career. As a leader, it is beneficial to have a mentor who offers advice, support and feedback. Feedback is essential as a leader because it can help you leverage your strengths in the workplace while helping you identify weaknesses in your management skills. A helpful mentor can challenge and guide you as you develop into a powerful leader for your team.

Here are some aspects you can look for in a mentor:

  • Passion for providing kind but honest constructive criticism

  • Enthusiasm for sharing their knowledge

  • Desire to sponsor other professionals

  • Devotion to listening and expressing empathy

Related: What Is A Mentor And How To Find The Right One For You

Characteristics Of Authentic Leaders

To be a successful leader and encourage an increase in employee performance, an authentic leader can possess several characteristics, including:

  • Focusing on the overall results: Authentic leaders can visualise long-term goals and encourage their team to remain focused and committed to reaching the goals.

  • Being consistent: Authentic leaders do not change their leadership style or apply different values to different situations. Consistency promotes reliability, and team members can experience increased trust in their leader, which may help them experience improved job satisfaction.

  • Having integrity: Authentic leaders implement their values in their work without wavering on them in challenging situations. They practise the expectations they have for their employees within the workplace to demonstrate their authenticity and to earn the respect and loyalty of their team.

  • Using their self-awareness: Leaders regularly assess their strengths and weaknesses and consider how these factors affect their ability to lead. They can also use their self-awareness to determine how their team might perceive them and how that affects their productivity.

  • Remaining transparent: Authentic leaders are open and encourage an environment of open communication to encourage their team members to voice their concerns, opinions and ideas.

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