Authentic leadership and what it means for culture
Authentic leadership: An approach to leadership that emphasises building the leader’s legitimacy through honest relationships with followers which value their input and are built on an ethical foundation. Authentic leaders are positive people with truthful self-concepts who promote openness.
Authenticity has been at the centre of the leadership conversation for some time now. So much so, that the Harvard Business Review (HBR) dubbed it ‘the gold standard for leadership.’ However, HBR notes that when we simplify our understanding of authentic leadership we can reduce it to something that is counterproductive.
Yes, authenticity is about remaining true to yourself and your principles but it doesn’t mean a complete lack of growth. It means you will evolve and adapt new leadership skills and practices that are in-line with your core values – it’s a more authentic growth.
We know what authentic leadership is and what it is comprised of but we don’t always explore how it affects bigger picture items – namely culture. At the annual All TEC Day event this year, we had a chance to explore not just authenticity but its role in shaping culture and what this means for businesses.
How does it affect culture?
The short answer is that authentic leadership has a very strong positive effect on culture. When an organisation is led by a leader who not only talks the talk but walks the walk, the staff is more engaged and more creative.
Authentic leadership breeds an environment where people know they are empowered to take their own paths. When people are allowed to comfortably be themselves and work in their own ways they are more willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Think of it this way – are people more drawn to confident self-assured people or individuals who can’t quite find their footing? We’ve all had friends who are one way around you and then act completely different around others. It’s not an attractive energy.
When a business is run by a leader that is open, honest and strong in their convictions, the culture follows suit. Not only is the company stronger for this reason but it created an inherent competitive edge – no one can duplicate your unique brand of authenticity because they don’t have the same staff members with the same unique skill sets to create your particular flavour of success.
How do you consciously promote an authentic culture?
So, how can you consciously promote authenticity as a leader? It all starts with defining authenticity as a main pillar of your company culture. Be open and honest with your team about what authenticity looks like. Vocally encourage and praise out-of-the-box solutions to solidify that creative means are supported through your organisation. Instil accountability in your team, let them know how their individual position helps push the company’s bottom line forward. This kind of responsibility helps promote authentic investment in the business.
Above all else, trust your team. Authenticity stems from honesty and conviction. You cannot support an authentic culture without having complete faith in your team and their skills. Let them know you believe in their work and success will follow.
Leaders should aim to be the most authentic version of themselves when they are steering their organisation in any direction. When a company breeds this type of authenticity it allows people to remain true to themselves while working towards a common goal. Authentic leadership is the pathway to an authentic culture which ultimately leads to an engaged workforce and a successful business. This is the ideal pathway for success.
By: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Helen Wiseman