What does it mean to be an ‘Authentic leader’?

The books and blogs available on how to be an effective leader are numerous and plentiful. Titles and content include themes such as Build trust! Don’t transact – transform. Just do it. Influence, empower, include, collaborate, be human, be a visionary, inspire, believe in your people, role model, coach, mentor, be trustworthy, have integrity, assert yourself, fake it til you make it. So many do’s and don’ts. It can be overwhelming…… Where do we begin?

While the entire list above is part of great leadership – the beginning of the journey is really about you – who you are, and who you choose to be on a daily basis.

When you think about the leaders that have truly inspired you, people that you have connected to, committed to and truly believed in, feel loyalty and respect for and would truly work your heart out for (and I hope there is or has been such a person in your life) what are the things that they have in common? We would such a call such a leader ‘Authentic.’

When we, at Alive & Kicking, asked ourselves what it means to be an ‘Authentic Leader’ – here’s what we discovered:

Authentic Leaders:

  1. Know who they are– they are self-aware. They are genuine. They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and work on developing themselves continuously. They are reflective and willing to look inward to find their faults and embrace them, honour them and develop them. Authentic leaders know that the relationship they need to nurture the most is the relationship that they have with themselves.
  2. Know what they stand for – Authentic leaders are truly connected deeply to their core values. They are congruent because their actions match their words. They are ethical and have integrity. There is a charismatic strength of character that emanates from the deep alignment and acceptance of who they are.
  3. Are willing to share their journey – they know where they have come from. They are happy to tell the stories about the awful embarrassing job they used to have, or the moments they wanted the ground to open up beneath them and swallow them whole. They recognise that those moments have shaped and moulded the person that they are now and they are stronger and more experienced because of it.
  4. Are connected through their head, heart and gut– authentic leaders are aligned through their core of being. They are ok with who they are and are willing to be vulnerable, admit to errors, make mistakes and BE human and fallible with all who are connected to them.
  5. Focus on people – Authentic leaders know that the best minutes they spend are the minutes they spend on and with their people project management tools. The communities, relationships and connections that they create are where the real work gets done. People are engaged and connected in workplaces that foster real and meaningful relationships. This is modelled by authentic leadership.
  6. Are fearless – It takes fortitude, resilience and deep inner strength to stand up for what they believe in. Leading people towards a vision takes courage. It takes a willingness to go against the grain and do what is right – even when it may not be easy.

The journey towards being an authentic leader begins with accepting the light and the dark of who we are, the strengths and weaknesses, the soft and hard, the vulnerability and the imperviousness, the fierceness and the gentleness – and we know that all of this lives in all of us…. Don’t we?

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