Keeping Up Appearances: Are You an Authentic Leader? 

Hello, I’m Nicola from The People Mentor, and in today’s podcast, I want to talk about how authenticity is one of the most important characteristics that any business owner or leader can have.

You might be a business owner but you’re also a human being, and that means that often we can influenced by our ego. 

We want to instantly ‘be’ the person we dream of being, rather than patiently working towards it

We want to forge relationships with people mainly because they can potentially raise our status

We fear being seen as a ‘failure’

We want people to think we know everything 

We get our sense of self-worth from things that don’t mean an awful lot

We don’t want to be associated with certain people because we judge them to be ‘not as good’ as us 

Did you recognise yourself in any of these? If you did, you’re not alone. The problem comes, however, when these characteristics creep into the way you run your business and manage your team. 

Read any management theory book, blog, or study, and you’ll notice that there are certain leadership traits that the best and most successful bosses possess. These are generally:

  • Authenticity – being true to yourself and your values 
  • Honesty – telling it like it is, even when it’s difficult 
  • Character – having a good set of values and not straying too far from them   
  • Transparency – you don’t hide things from anyone which makes building trust easy
  • Relatability – you treat everyone the same, whether they’re a cleaner or an executive 
  • Approachable – your door is always open and you listen to others 
  • Humility – being willing to admit to your mistakes 
  • Contentment – being grateful for what you have in the present and not always wishing you could fast forward to the future

You’ll notice that authenticity is at the top of the list. How authentic are you? Do you feel like you’re a different person at work than you are in your personal life? Would you feel hurt if you found out that your employees didn’t trust you, didn’t particularly like you, and wanted to work somewhere else? 

If all you do is keep up appearances on the outside but you’re empty and inauthentic on the inside, it will stick out like a sore thumb to your team. An inauthentic manager or leader won’t inspire loyalty, trust, or hard work; in fact, they won’t inspire much at all. 

So what is an authentic leader, and how do you know if you’re one? 

Well, authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine. They know their strengths and their weaknesses, and they are curious about their emotions. They allow people to see them as they are, there’s no pretence. 

They’re also able to put the wider business mission and goals ahead of their own interests. It’s not all about being rich and powerful; what they’re doing serves a wider purpose. 

Authentic leaders aren’t afraid to be seen as human beings who are in touch with their emotions and who have vulnerabilities just like everyone else. This makes authentic leaders much more able to connect with employees. 

It’s not that you have to be the ‘perfect’ manager to be authentic, but many managers fall short of achieving authenticity. 

In his book ‘Authentic Leadership,’ Harvard University professor, Bill George identifies five types of authentic leaders who are present in many businesses:

The impostor-this is the leader with little self-awareness and very shaky self-esteem

The rationalist- this leader struggles to stand by their values while telling themselves little white lies to rationalise their behaviour 

The pursuer of glory-this manager only cares about being or looking powerful, important, and successful

The loner-this manager is clueless about forming good relationships with their team

The fallen star – managers who started off with a dream of achieving a perfect balance of life and work but never realise it  

Do you recognise yourself here? If not, you’ll most certainly recognise someone you’ve worked with or worked for. How did you feel working with or for this person? Did you feel like you could trust them? Did you feel engaged, motivated, and like you wanted to go the extra mile for them? 

It’s not easy to be authentic, but the strain of putting on a ‘mask’ can take its toll on you, physically and mentally. This will then translate into a loss of motivation and desire to take your business forward, both of which can affect productivity and profitability.  

There is often a struggle between who you really are, and who you think you should be as a leader. The authentic you is when those two things meet, but remember they don’t always agree. To be a truly authentic leader, you have to be willing to adapt your behaviour so it reflects your inner truth. You have to discover or rediscover your passion. You have to work on building good relationships with your team and create an environment where trust, loyalty, and honest and open communication reign supreme. 

This is where you’ll find that your team responds well to you, trusts you, and is willing to work hard for you and help you grow your business. 

So how do you become the authentic leader that your business and employees need? 

You should always have your business goals in sight, but to meet them, you need to realise that it all starts with your team. Build trusting relationships with them, give them clear direction, be supportive, and be honest in all of your interactions. 

You need to stay close to your true values at all times. Be honest, be ethical, and help people grow and develop. You do want to achieve your goals, but this should never be at the expense of your moral values or your team. 

You need to show that you are disciplined in the pursuit of your goals. This doesn’t mean you need to be an emotionless robot; you can be sensitive to other people’s needs without losing focus on what you want to achieve. 

A true leader doesn’t need to assert their power or use the carrot and stick to get things done. They constantly work to learn about themselves and grow, so that they inspire people to grow with them on their business journey. 

When it comes to leadership, don’t just keep up appearances. Work on yourself. Show people the real you. Show them your passion, your dedication, and your humanity, and the rewards will speak for themselves. 

Do you need help with business or people issues?

You just want to get on with doing what you love, but do you spend most of your days firefighting? Are there issues in your business that you can’t seem to get a handle on?

Is there a lack of harmony in your team? All of these can affect productivity, morale, and business growth.

You’re a competent and savvy business owner, but not everyone has all the answers. I have the expertise you need.

I have over 30 years of experience in leading teams and I know how it feels when there’s a lack of harmony that’s harming your business growth. 

I can give you and your team the tools and training you need to create a more harmonious, positive, and collaborative working environment, so that your future, as well as your present, is a lot happier and more comfortable. 

I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way, and I know that no problem is insurmountable when you have the right support. 

Book a call to find out exactly how I can help you.

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