The best executive leaders know that authenticity is critical to effective leadership. But what does it mean to lead with authenticity? And how can we cultivate and sustain it over time, especially during difficult and challenging times?
To me, leading with authenticity means aligning your thoughts, actions and behaviours with your values, and your purpose. It means continually evolving as a person, professional and leader while staying grounded in who you truly are or, if you prefer, your uniqueness.
So how do you do this in practice?
Here are some tips for leading with authenticity:
1. Practice self compassion
Self compassion is about showing yourself the same understanding you would a friend. It’s a crucial leadership skill, particularly during difficult times and constant change. We all know that perfection is a myth. Instead of beating yourself up the next time you make a mistake, treat yourself with kindness and understanding, allowing yourself to feel your emotions as they are, without judgement. Then, learn from your mistake in the same way that you would counsel a team member through their learning.
2. Embrace vulnerability
Vulnerability is the courage to be yourself, fully, as a leader. It means acknowledging your strengths and fears but not letting them hold you back from trying new things. The courage to embrace unpredictability, risk and uncertainty by making consciously courageous choices. Being vulnerable (within the framework of leadership) can be scary, but it’s also essential to building authentic trust and connection with your team. When your team sees you being vulnerable and ‘real’, they’ll feel more comfortable doing the same with you and each other.
3. Be compassionately challenging, not critical
If your aim as a leader is professional evolution not stagnation, authentic leadership means you practise this for yourself and your team. By compassionately challenging your team members to be their best selves, you are encouraging growth aligned with their strengths and values, and inspiring them to lead authentically too.
4. Stop problem solving
In a constantly changing environment, tried and tested solutions only get you so far at best, and may not work at worst. Curiously enquiring into what’s possible rather than “what’s the problem we want to fix” leads to very different results.
5. Evolve not revolve
Regularly take time to assess your personal progress towards leading a life aligned with your purpose, and do the same for your team. Without it, you may find that your leadership and life keeps revolving rather than evolving. Consider:
- How often do you take time and energy to ensure that your purpose and values are closely aligned with who you are now?
- How have you incorporated recent market, personal and professional changes into your purpose and values?
- When was the last time you immersed yourself in 2 or 3 days of deep personal reflection, review and rejuvenation to recharge your mind, body and spirit?
Leading with authenticity is, like most other leadership skills, a practice. It is a way of “being” rather than something that you do. It requires ongoing self-reflection, self-awareness, and self compassion. The rewards are immense – greater trust, engagement, and impact for ourselves and our teams. Not to mention immense personal and professional growth.
❓How are you evolving as a person, professional and leader?
Looking for a deeply transformative and refreshing personal leadership experience? Join me at the Mindful Leadership Institute Retreat in July. Read what other women leaders have said about the retreat here.