The Most Essential Characteristic of Great Leaders: Authenticity

Mar 20, 2017Leadership

Great leaders are authentic leaders


I’m sure many of us remember having one special teacher that stood out. A teacher that believed in her students, cared about them and knew how to bring out their potential.

A teacher that people actually WANTED to do the work for, because they wanted to make them proud of their effort.

For me, my most memorable teacher was my 4th class teacher.

I always loved how he read us stories at the end of the day. It was as if he wasn’t just reading the story, but that he was a part of it and so were we.

I’ll always remember how the entire class sat drinking in every word, laughing occasionally at the funny voices of the characters.

This teacher was a man who loved history, myths and stories, and best of all, he made us love them too.


authentic leader


Leaders come from all walks of life and can be found in any profession.

It could be a five year old kid who initiates games in the playground, an army official who leads his troops into battle, or indeed the CEO of a company.

It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is authenticity. Great leaders aren’t feeble imitations of a leader they saw on TV. They don’t try to mimic what seems to work well for others.

Think Rosa Parks and Richard Branson – two different personalities, both authentic leaders.

Rather than imitating others, authentic leaders show up as they truly are and encourage others to do the same.

They know themselves, are familiar with their strengths and weaknesses and don’t try to prove themselves to anyone.

We’ll explore some of the characteristics of great leaders over the next few weeks, but the most important is authenticity.


What is authenticity?


As Ron Price from The Complete Leader remarks, authenticity is the most essential characteristic of a leader because it’s the foundation of trust.

Considering how body language and intonation account for approximately 93% of our communication, it’s really obvious when you’re putting on a facade.

People can sense when you’re trying to be something that you’re not and will likely lose respect for you as a result.

A far better strategy is to be open with your colleagues. Let them get to know you and help you where you are weak.

Be an authentic leader, and eventually you’re sure to find authentic followers.


How to become an authentic leader


I truly believe that anybody can be a leader, regardless of experience and whether they’re an introvert, extrovert or ambivert.

It starts with authenticity and getting to know yourself.

Here are some tips to help.


#1: Get to know yourself


TTI tools provide a unique insight into a person’s behaviours, driving forces, acumen, competencies and EQ, thus helping people get to know themselves better.

These tools leave an individual with a far greater understanding of themselves that they will remember for life. As a leader, the insight they can bring is invaluable. To try a free report or view a sample, click here.


authentic leader 1


#2: Identify your values


By identifying your values and what truly matters to you, you will get to know yourself better. By living them, you will become a more authentic leader.

Michael Hyatt recommends ranking values in order of importance, and suggests the following as ideas: forgiveness, perseverance, discipline, integrity and honesty.

Once you’re clear on your values, be vocal about them! Let the people around you know how you want to live your life and live authentically.


#3: Spend time with people who are different to you


To become more authentic as a leader, make a conscious effort to build relationships with people from different backgrounds and departments.

Learn to develop sincere connections, whether you’re communicating with somebody one-on-one or if you’re giving a talk to a room full of people.

Be genuine, learn to see things from others’ points of view and avoid the temptation to act differently in order to be popular.

People will disagree with you and your ideas from time to time, but if you remain firm in your beliefs and know where you’re going, you can stand tall in your authenticity.


#4: Build on your strengths


This great article by Kellogg Insight recommends building on your natural strengths. For instance, you may be a natural mentor, or good at encouraging others to be productive.

Find ways to compensate for your weaknesses. Team up with others around you and benefit from their unique experience.


#5: Keep looking for feedback


To be an authentic leader, you must continually seek feedback.

Ron Price gives a great metaphor for this: Just like we depend on a mirror to see the back of our heads, to be authentic you have to let other people be your mirrors.

By allowing them to give you constructive feedback, you open yourself up to growing self awareness and a greater knowledge and understanding of yourself.


How do I know if I’m being authentic?


Apart from implementing the tips above, it’s important to check in with yourself regularly to see if you’re being an authentic leader.

Ron Price suggests that you consider the following questions to point you in the right direction.

  1. Do I know who I am?
  2. Am I embracing who I am?
  3. Am I comfortable with who I am or am I trying to fake it?
  4. Am I being transparent with the people I’m around? If I’m not being transparent with them and being honest, even when it’s tough to do, then that’s not being authentic.
  5. Am I open to feedback? And am I asking people for feedback?
  6. Am I committed to learning and developing, and to being the best version of me that I can possibly be?
Final thoughts…


Authenticity is the most essential characteristic of great leaders.

To develop your authenticity, start by getting to know yourself and identifying your values.

Spend time with people who are different to you and learn how to truly connect with others.

Work on developing your strengths, seek feedback and ask yourself some of the above questions to keep yourself on track.

As Ron Price said in this video on identifying emerging leaders, “I believe that everybody is a leader. They’re either a leader because of their character, their ability to get things done, the way they think. They’re a leader because of their expertise – something they know that adds value in your organisation.”

The leadership nature-nurture debate is over. Leaders can absolutely be developed. It all starts with authenticity.

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Discover Your Leadership Style TODAY!

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