Be true to yourself when it’s time to lead. When you lead with authenticity, stick to your values and communicate what you believe in, others will trust you and follow.
If you lead authentically you set the example for the rest of the organization.
“And it’s not only by talking — talk is cheap — but do it by acting,” Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, a distinguished professor and former chairman of marketing at the University of North Carolina who wrote “Time to Lead,” told Investor’s Business Daily. “You can’t just talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.”
Act To Lead With Authenticity
Start by determining your own set of principles to guide you. “Have a very clear set of values and then live those values in both public and private life,” Steenkamp said.
People need to trust you to follow you. “Integrity is absolutely important to being authentic and you must have it in all walks of life,” Steenkamp said.
Social media have caused many aspects of people’s private lives to be exposed, heightening the importance of being authentic both at work and in your personal life.
He pointed to George Washington as personifying authentic leadership. Washington turned down the opportunity to become an all-powerful leader like a dictator. Instead, he felt the government should be of, by and for the people.
“Those were not just words,” Steenkamp said. “He put those into action.”
Nelson Mandela, who became South Africa’s president, had been imprisoned and tortured by apartheid leaders. When he became president he aimed for reconciliation among the white and black citizens. He used rugby, largely a white man’s sport in South Africa, to lead by example. His support of the national team brought black and white people together.
“They lived their values and went against the opinion of the time,” Steenkamp said of Washington and Mandela.
Communicate With Authenticity
It’s vital to communicate in a way that’s true to yourself and your own style to lead with authenticity.
“You have to know who you are and be comfortable with it,” said Jay Sullivan, managing partner of Exec-Comm, a New York-based global firm that helps people communicate, and author of “Simply Said.”
Live up to what you say you are, too.
“If I say I help people communicate better, I need to believe that,” he said. “That allows me to communicate with more confidence and comfort. If I feel like I’m faking it, there’s no way I’m going to communicate clearly. The benefit of just being who you are is you’re more comfortable in how you communicate.”
It boils down to this: “Be conscious of, in every decision, am I living those values that I say I believe in,” Sullivan said.
Win Followers If You Lead With Authenticity
People will follow you if you act and communicate authentically, Sullivan says.
“Followers don’t want to follow somebody they don’t trust and don’t understand,” he said.
Steenkamp says surveys show the top thing employees want from their company is management willing to lead with authenticity and by example. Second is strong ethics and morals, which are keys to authentic leadership.
“Don’t try to be the kind of leader you’re not,” Steenkamp said.
Make sure you lead with authenticity by listening to others, Steenkamp says. They’ll tell you if you’re straying from your values. It can be a spouse, peers or a board of directors or advisors.
Make yourself open and even vulnerable, Sullivan says.
“If there’s something in the way you’re communicating that leads me to suspect I’m getting a guarded version of you, then I don’t know who you are and I’ll mistrust you or your message,” he said.
It pays to lead with authenticity whether you’re in a leadership position or not.
“For those people in particular, I have to believe what you say is genuine,” Sullivan said. “If you’re communicating in a way that you don’t seem sure of your own ideas, I’m less likely to get behind you.”
Published in Investor’s Business Daily – See the article