10 Ways to Spot Authentic Leaders
Authenticity, like trust, feedback, and empowerment are words tossed around in leadership circles like nuts at a squirrel buffet.
But, talk isn’t always cheap. Words change lives and organizations. However, talk is nearly meaningless, when it comes to authenticity.
Words apart from practice make you feel you know when you don’t.
Using the term “authentic” doesn’t make you authentic any more than sleeping in a garage makes you a car.
10 practices of authenticity:
I’ve interviewed scores of high profile leaders. Authenticity appears quickly. Authentic leaders:
- Talk comfortably about failure.
- Say, “I hadn’t thought of that.”
- Speak tough truths comfortably.
- Share what they are learning. Fakers pretend they already knew.
- Ask “dumb” questions.
- Explore-with rather than conclude-for.
- Invite feedback. You’d be amazed how many leaders fear feedback, even refuse it.
- Honor others, profusely. Phony leaders need honor. Authentic leaders give it.
- Know and acknowledge frailties and weaknesses. Fakers are omniscient and omni-compitent.
- Empathize without compromise.
Bonus: Adapt, change, and grow. Phonies don’t grow they spiral inward like black-holes.
You change before you help others change.
Fakers rely on position, authority, and manipulation. Authentic leaders influence through the power of their person.
The power of authenticity is influence rather than coercion.
Authenticity lowers stress; faking increases stress.
For the record, most leaders I interview practice authenticity. It’s refreshing and encouraging. Authenticity fills words with authority and power, without it, words are cheap.
How do you spot authenticity?
How does authenticity develop in a person?
The most important element in spotting authenticity I think is consistency over time. Its spending time with people in good and in not-so-ideal circumstances.
It is also about discernment. Authentic leaders speak honestly about their own short-comings, but also speak to the angst you may be feeling yourself.
Authenticity develops by knowing who you are, what you stand for, and always standing for that.
Thank you Martina. When I read comments, sometimes I go duh!! That’s what happened when I read “consistency over time.” Great add.
Thanks for your insights.
Effective leaders are humble and committed to the good of the organization, ready to follow instead of lead if someone else can lead more effectively, fiercely loyal and trustworthy, conscious of their own faults, and have peace in their souls – even when the going is tough.
Kapow! Thank you Marc.
I resonate with committed to the good of the organization, loyal, and trustworthy.
I also love your addition of peace of mind. Cheers.
Couldn’t agree more Marc!
Authentic leaders influence through the power of their person- Such a powerful concept. It means authentic leaders have good person inside them. Others might have personality. So, one of the way to spot Authentic leader is by their behavior, inner traits and human values. And I also believe that we can also distinguish between authenticity and unauthentic by measuring person and personality. And one of the effective way to spot authenticity is to by experience of others, and observation. And the best way is to just start conversation and seek suggestions.You should also ask the leaders belief in authenticity. I mean what make or drive a person to become authentic leaders. I think reaction to such questions reveal many things and we and find many answers.
I believe authenticity develop in a person by values that he carries. Authenticity is developed by his experience and his ability and willingness to either accept or challenge circumstances.In case of bigger issues and tougher challenges people with personality adjust their path to follow the herd but authentic leaders stand out like rock with their strong values, concerns for betterment and willing to sacrifice.
Every comment adds value. thank you Ajay… I absolutely love the distinction between person and personality. It’s powerful. Fantastic!
There have been many times when I was younger that I focused on being a personality rather than being real. I also find that some organizations seek personality rather than authenticity… They feed fakery and create stress.
“The power of authenticity is influence rather than coercion.” thanks — very powerful.
It seems that much of this starts with understanding, and being comfortable with, who we are (rather than the image we try to project/protect) Easy to state but how often do I find my self playing out the — “if I do this, they will think that..” — spin cycle.
.great post . lots to think about here ..
Another great expression: projecting an image. MOst of us smell it a mile a way… the ones who don’t are the ones playing the game. 🙂
Fake leadership rely on duplicity, talking one thing and doing exactly opposite, guiding different people differently at cross purpose to facilitate turf war and confusion. Several big job title holders – in leaders role, survive, change cos with pretensions of having worked with so and so, yet not reflecting even a bit in their current role.
Fake leaders are snakes, who survive and thrive on confusing the team while talking high ideals and aspirations. So people join in with surge till they discover whole ship is going astray.
As so nicely said by the author, authority and position is manipulated to create a great transformation journey, till people find it is all MAYA or ILLUSION.
Large enterprise works on mangerial model of command and control. So such fake leadership may survive in the chess game of manipulation, meetings, reviews, minutes of the meeting etc. But such traits gets exposed in SMB cos where capital, headcount and geography is limited. Such enterprise SMBrequires authentic leaders , not fake.
I have seen from my long carrer experience that cos and business with Fake leaders go into coma quickly. No one dares to speak out as then it is too late. Investors twiddle their thumb. Good talents go away silently and others, not so alert or naive stay back , agonising.
Thanks for such a great piece. Keep it up.
I read the voice of experience. Although most of the high profile leaders I’ve interviewed practice authenticity…many lower level leaders don’t. It’s sad but true. Many organizations have fear-based cultures. This includes nonprofits and religious organizations.
I believe it can be changed but it top level leaders to courageously step out.
I think part of authenticity is not just giving people a voice, but genuinely caring about what they have to say and demonstrating this through your actions (even when it’s not possible to accommodate everything they need/want).
The worst leaders are those who don’t allow their teams to have a voice. The almost-as-bad ones merely pretend to give people a voice, but it’s all window dressing. They lull you into a false sense of hope that your ideas/concerns are being listened to and considered but then they walk away and pull down the shutters.
Thanks for your comment. It made me think that authenticity gives leaders the courage to genuinely care and listen. Thinking back, the phony leaders I have known didn’t really care either. They were agenda driven. Great add
There never has been, nor will there ever be a man like Thomas Paine. He was dedicated to the point where he cared only for his adopted country. He did a pauper in Grenwich Village in New York, with no one to mourn his death. Ah! There was a true leader to behold.
Thanks Kenneth! Challenging
Authenticity also is exemplified when the behavior expected is modeled consistently, and when (s)he can show the human side that embraces fun, even in high stake environments. Finding commonality in universal unifiers, such as music or pop culture, humanizes a Leader, no matter the professional climate.
Thanks Amber, your comment aligns with top business thinkers today who are talking about humane organizations. People like Gary Hamel, for example. Cheers
Great post! Your statement that “Authentic leaders influence through the power of their person.” couldn’t be more true. Anyone can portray themselves as leader but it’s the ability for them to impact and influence others in such a simple manner that really separates the true leaders from the imposters.
Thank you for your comment and affirmation, Lacee. I think we’ve all seen people who tried to look like leaders but it was only skin deep, not heart deep.
The distinction between the person and personality is truly eye opening…I have always believed in “saying it the way it is,” rather than saying what’s expected of you. Many of us use “the dressing for the job you want” concept with leadership; but leadership consists of many, sometimes very unique thraits…
Again, great post everyone!!!
Reblogged this on David A. Vudragovich and commented:
What I strive and hope to be!
Also a good stick to measure others by.
Whilst I achieved a decent senior middle-management level in my career, I didn’t reach the highs of a truly senior executive. Whether that was down to a lack of talent or not, I’m not the one to say.
I DO think I was authentic. In fact, I’m not sure how I might have been otherwise. Being duplicitous; paying politics; not caring for others and all the inauthentic things listed above and more were not in my lexicon.
I’m wondering if that’s where I went wrong!
Not that it bothers me inordinately. I liked the way I did the job. The way I am. It did frustrate me a little that I wasn’t more ‘successful’ and for why. I’ve achieved all I wanted and I don’t know what it would be like to not do what I do into the future.
I love what I do now – and the way I do it.
That said, most of the senior executives I met were inauthentic, yet got where they are. I often don’t believe they get the best from their people at all as they are, but for themselves, they have ‘succeeded’.
Why is that?
Martin, no one ever said that authentic leaders are necessarily those who reach the top, nor that being authentic is all it takes…However, one could argue that being authentic is ultimately more rewarding, whether you reach the top or not (as you I believe are implying).
As a leader many characteristics are learned behaviors but the foundation behaviors help us to move towards being authentic leaders. A lot of the “fakeness” we see in leaders is primarily due to the personality flaws and their view of values. Maybe i am wrong but i have seen many leaders throughout my working life continuiosly make the mistake that they think employees don’t see their lack of authentic behavior. I think values drives this car more than any other.
“Fakers rely on position, authority, and manipulation. Authentic leaders influence through the power of their person.” There is the difference between a leader and a boss. Leaders act from in front, going where you want/aspire to be. Bosses act from behind, driving you to where they want you to go.
You got me with:
“Using the term “authentic” doesn’t make you authentic any more than sleeping in a garage makes you a car.” 😉
I’m experiencing that deeper authenticity comes with deepening trust in myself.
Trust strong and deeply rooted enough to figure out what issues I’m willing to ‘die for’ because I feel they’re truly necessary to create the Heaven On Earth world that works for all.
Trust allows us to speak/share our truths, our ideas, our passions and our crevices way past the comfort zones it’s so easy to cling to, feel safe in.
Ever deepening trust in self and therefore trust in others, in Life, allows the power of the person to constantly evolve past conditioned limits into closer and closer expression of innate Vastness.
btw, I LOVE the ‘300 words or less’ in your blog’s bi-line. My type of blog – short, pithy, useful, actionable and reflection-triggering.
I’m in my 28th year of Pastoral ministry. When I think of Authenticity I also think of Transparency. Real Authentic leaders have nothing to hide. Even the Apostle Paul talked of himself and the churches he established as an open letter known and read of all men. Authentic leaders recognize that all they say and do is continually sending a message and they are deliberate about the message they are sending. When they fail in any area they are quick to repent and when others fail with them they are quick to forgive. Just a thought!
thank you for an authentic portrayal of authenticity! People often utilise the word – and then tell us how to behave to conform – that is NOT authentic to our selves
Hey Dan, I have been following you for a month now & I have to say I love your content and approach, very valuable leadership keys. I had the fortunate experience of following an unauthentic leader for several years in my younger days. I always wondered why he spoke so much about honoring him and authority to the point where it was the only message. I remember thinking to myself if someone truly had authority people would be able to see it without being told, therefore the honor would come without coercion. Today I am very thankful for that experience as it taught me to lead those around me through authenticity and example. Thanks again for your posts.
Striving to lead better,
Thanks Andy. Sounds like you learned a lot from an unauthentic leader.
I appreciate your encouraging words.
iI love this report. It took much insight & honesty.
There are a number of good insights here. I particularly like this one: “Words apart from practice make you feel you know when you don’t.” I love words and their power to change lives, organizations, and society when spoken by people of integrity. Part of what can make words “cheap” is that talking is easy. Action is always less easy & often hard. But, it is the reflection on action/experience that provides the grounding for having something authentic to say.
There are many helpful insights in this post. The one that stands out to me today is “Words apart from practice make you feel you know when you don’t.” I love words and their power to change individuals, organizations, and society when spoken by persons of integrity. One reason words become “cheap” is that talking is easy. Action is always less easy and often hard. Nevertheless, it is reflecting on action/experience that provides the grounding for having something authentic to say.
Great topic Dan! Using key “leadership” terms is all the trend these days. Actually living the principles of leadership seems to be a whole different story. It is so important for leaders to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk.