How to become an Authentic Leader

user pic

Andy Raymond.



While taking on a new leadership role, one may be tempted to take on a new personality and start “acting like a leader”. But the real secret to great leadership is both harder and easier: act like yourself, be an authentic leader, and establish your personal brand.

In today’s interconnected digital world, every executive at C and/or D level has a personal brand whether they know it or not. A 'personal brand' is the collection of values, experiences, and associations that people attach to you. In short, it is what peers and business associates think about you when they hear your name mentioned. Everyone has a personal brand, but now more than ever business leaders are investing time and effort in shaping what that brand is and raising its awareness amongst target audiences such as senior management, industry peers, and potential employers - much like the marketing department does with the product. 

When you know what you stand for, you’re better positioned to lead. Authentic leadership means being honest, transparent, and true to oneself. It means leading genuinely and keeping your personality while talking to the board of directors or a new intern. When you are credible and inspiring, the people you collaborate with will buy into your ideas and be more open to communication. 

When someone does this, people notice and start trusting them. This encourages more honest communication from employees, which in turn allows them to lead their team or business toward greater success. Authentic leadership builds strong working relationships, boosts morale and productivity, improves company culture, and even increases brand awareness. 

So how can authentic leadership be achieved? There are five main components:

  1. Self-awareness. Self-awareness has been cited as the most important capability for leaders to develop. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and having the courage to be yourself at work. Studies found that companies with strong financial performance tend to have employees with higher levels of self-awareness than poorly performing companies.
  2. Balanced guidance. Leadership is about behaviour. Good leadership means focusing on both sides of the balance - weighing the pros and cons before making decisions. Encouraging employees to speak up and be part of the decision-making. People who feel heard, feel valued.
  3. Transparency. Sharing your thoughts, ideas, and opinions honestly, giving constructive feedback, and having the courage to own your mistakes. This sets an example for the whole team and business.
  4. Mission focus. High-performance workplaces have a clear, well-specified purpose that states both how and why the company makes a positive impact on the world. This assists people in making better decisions and aligns everyone together toward a common cause and what’s best for the company’s mission.
  5. Long-term planning. Great leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason making decisions based on the long-term success of the organisation, even if that means harder work or new challenges in the short term.

Skills of an authentic leader

While authentic leadership is about being yourself, it’s about being your best self, which includes self-development. Here are 8 leadership skills that can be cultivated.

  • Self-awareness

To provide strong leadership, it’s important to get clarity on who you are, how you work, what drives you, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Try journaling or asking for constructive feedback from others. Thinking about how you come across can help you make better decisions.

  • Identifying your values

Be clear about your beliefs –your core values. This will help a leader commit to their organisation and lead ethically. The culture of a team or organisation reflects the qualities of its leader. 

Good leaders understand the impact and consequences of their actions and behave accordingly. They know the value of constructive criticism and praise and know when to use them effectively. They also understand how important it is to be fair and seen as an honest broker. 

  • Improving Communication skills

Leading authentically means getting good at active listening, constructive feedback, and storytelling. Leaders, managers, and executives must communicate clearly and appropriately with all stakeholders, and employees at any level, creating strong working relationships. They should keep decision-making transparent and maintain detailed records, reducing the risk of mistakes. 

Excellent leaders know how to present information to constituencies, in a way that can be understood and acted upon. They regularly talk to their customers, suppliers, other partners, and network of peers to understand their challenges and the dynamic changes within the market. 

  • Leading by example 

Leaders turn their words into action. Knowing the business and industry, being willing to do the tough jobs, and acting as a role model are the makings of a true leader.

That is why executives and directors must lead by example and live the values they want to inculcate. Good leaders often create good leaders – and bad leaders can create bad ones.  

  • Developing emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence means being able to manage your own emotions–and other people’s. It helps one build more resilience and better working relationships. It has a lot to do with emotional fortitude, which is one of the key attributes of a CEO or leader. It reflects the inner workings of their performance, as they make decisions and deal with the consequences that arise.

  • Finding a network

 Connecting with other business leaders through events or online networks and asking them how they handle challenges and problems can help one connect with like-minded people. Meeting an executive coach or a mentor can also be fruitful–if one remembers to be authentic in these conversations too. Network building also extends to social media these days. Social media has become a vital tool for executives and directors in the technology arena to better engage and connect with their key stakeholders. It is an opportunity to enhance the reputation of the company.

  • Relating to your team

Getting to know your people, what they like, what they want, and how they see their roles is a great place to start. Don’t be afraid to share information about your personal life to encourage them to open up about theirs. Being generous with praise and willing to share success is also a great motivator. A senior leader who not only encourages openness but dares to do it first can boost the performance of the organisation. This could be enhanced via Insights training - knowing the type of person you are and how this impacts on your working relationships.

  • Discipline makes a difference

Developing authentic leadership doesn’t happen overnight, so making a professional development plan is a good step toward working on weaknesses and sticking to values.

Becoming an authentic leader requires time, effort, and focus on character and personal development but if you develop and enhance those skills you’ll reap the rewards of better working relationships, increased trust and productivity, and a happier workplace.

Redline Executive is the industry-aligned leading Executive Search recruiter and has committed to challenge and improve the quality of the executive search sector.

Redline has an in-depth knowledge of the high technology industry with four decades of experience. We have built trusted partnerships with our clients and candidates, and pride ourselves on being industry experts. Contact Andy Raymond – Director on 01582 450054 or email ARaymond@RedlineExecutive.com 

Share article