The behaviours required to be an authentic leader

 Authenticity is seen as the holy grail of leadership development. But, there is little understanding of the attitudes and behaviours that underpin an authentic leader.

The basis for developing authentic leadership is to be clear on who you are and your inner guiding principles and values.

That means being aware of what has shaped and influenced you to be the person you are; knowing your habitual ways of perceiving and operating; how you react when faced with new contexts and challenges; and how you approach new ways of working.

I define authenticity as: ‘The degree to which you invite the trust of others by being principled, reliable, consistent and known.’

Being principled is your understanding of your own core values and principles and acting in accordance with them. This is where reliability and consistency comes in. In basic terms this means that what you believe matches what you do.

Another aspect to authenticity is being predictable and known. If people find you difficult to get to know, they may feel less inclined to trust you.

Authenticity is not about a defined set of values and principles. It’s not an aspiration. It’s the reality of who you are, and being true to yourself.

Authenticity can be diminished if as a leader you continually change your behaviour. It might be that a person wants to be liked, so they change their behaviour rather than checking if it’s consistent with their inner principles. Perhaps, they are unpredictable – friendly one moment and aggressive the next. In a work setting people would rather work with a consistently firm or demanding boss than one who is inconsistent and difficult to read.

Being an authentic leader is about developing your own emotional intelligence to improve the kind of self-awareness that leads to authenticity. It is also about being better able to manage yourself and your relationships. So you continuously act in accordance with your own values, principles and beliefs.

Also being an authentic leader means you need to develop and maintain your self-regard. Having high self-regard suggests that you are happy with yourself and who you have become and have reasonably strong inner confidence. It enables you to accept your strengths and weaknesses, welcome feedback and be open to change without feeling threatened or defensive. An unconditional acceptance of who you are means that rather than feeling driven to behave in a certain way, you are able to work non-defensively. If you are able to combine this high self-regard with high regard for others, you will be able to build close, open and collaborative relationships.

Working at a deep level of knowing your own attitudes, beliefs and behaviours you can gain significant insight into your potential to become an authentic leader – that’s the real holy grail of leadership development.

Develop your authenticity with these steps:
• Keep your beliefs, feelings and aspirations aligned, ensuring that you are acting with integrity and authenticity. You may find it helpful to talk to someone else to help you do this.

• Ask a range of people who experience you in different settings whether you are consistent and reliable with them in all situations. Ensure that you extend your reliability to all people even when under pressure. Ask them what they would like you to do to improve on this even further.

• Be reliable and keep your promises, only agree to deliver on things if you have made an assessment of your workload and priorities to ascertain how achievable it is.

• Being authentic sets a good example to others. Create a team and work environment where others also act responsibly and honestly.


About the author
Jo Maddocks, co-founder and Chief Psychologist, JCA Global. He has worked as a business psychologist for more than 25 years, tackling a vast range of issues across numerous sectors and age groups. He knows better emotional intelligence leads to improved individual and business performance – and happier, healthier lives.

Currently completing his Doctorate in the psychology of Emotional Intelligence and psychometrics, Jo is one of the UK’s leading experts in Emotional Intelligence. He has even penned a book on the subject, Emotional Intelligence @ Work: How to make change stick.

JCA Global is a world leader in applied emotional intelligence in the workplace. www.jcaglobal.com