What is Authentic Leadership ? The Divers and Barriers to Becoming More Authentic at work


What is Authentic Leadership?

Authentic leadership encapsulates a style deeply rooted in self-awareness, moral integrity, relational transparency, and purpose-driven actions. At its essence, it involves leaders staying true to their values, beliefs, and principles while fostering an environment where others can do the same. Unlike authoritarian or transactional approaches, authentic leadership emphasizes the human aspect of leadership, focusing on building trust, nurturing relationships, and inspiring commitment. 


Why is Inauthenticity So Common?

Inauthenticity at work often manifests as a disconnect between an individual's true self and their professional persona, a phenomenon deeply rooted in childhood experiences, as Gabor Maté, a renowned psychologist, would assert. Maté's perspective emphasizes the profound impact of early upbringing on adult behavior and interpersonal relationships. He suggests that inauthenticity can stem from childhood environments where individuals learn to suppress their true emotions, desires, and vulnerabilities in order to fit into societal expectations or gain approval from caregivers. This early conditioning can carry into the workplace, where individuals may continue to mask their authentic selves in fear of rejection, criticism, or failure. Consequently, this inner conflict between authenticity and conformity can lead to stress, disengagement, and a lack of fulfillment in professional settings. Recognizing and addressing these underlying dynamics is essential for fostering a work culture that values authenticity, empathy, and genuine human connection.

How Can I Achieve Authenticity as a Leader?

  1. Self-Reflection and Awareness: Authentic leadership begins with self-awareness. It is important to take the time to reflect on your values, feelings, strengths, weaknesses, and experiences. Understand how these factors shape your leadership style and decision-making process and allow you to take the steps to transformation. Oftentimes, therapeutic support is required for this type of self-inquiry.
  2. Embrace Vulnerability: Authenticity requires vulnerability. Don't be afraid to show your human side, including your mistakes, failures, and insecurities. Many leaders often “put on an act” at work to maintain their authority, which can block trust and prevent team members from being open and honest at work. Admitting vulnerability fosters trust and relatability among team members, paving the way for open communication and collaboration.
  3. Live Your Values: Identify your core values and let them guide your actions as a leader. Stay true to your principles, even in challenging situations where compromises may seem tempting. Consistently demonstrate integrity, honesty, and ethical behavior, setting a positive example for others to follow.
  4. Build Genuine Connections: Authentic leadership thrives on genuine relationships. Take the time to connect with your team members on a personal level, showing empathy, compassion, and understanding. Actively listen to their concerns, ideas, and aspirations, fostering a sense of belonging and mutual respect.
  5. Lead with Purpose: Define a clear vision and purpose for yourself and your team. Communicate this vision effectively, inspiring others to rally behind shared goals and objectives. Align your actions with your purpose, demonstrating passion, commitment, and enthusiasm in everything you do.
  6. Be Transparent: Transparency is key to authenticity. Share information openly, communicate openly, and involve others in decision-making processes whenever possible. Transparency builds trust and accountability, fostering a culture of openness and collaboration.
  7. Continuously Learn and Grow: Authentic leaders are lifelong learners. Stay curious, seek feedback, and embrace opportunities for personal and professional development. Cultivate a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement. Knowing that there is no end to learning creates a culture of compassion and growth.


What are the barriers to Authenticity?

Despite the aspiration to be authentic leaders, several barriers can hinder the attainment of authenticity:

  • Fear of Judgment: The fear of being judged or criticized can compel leaders to hide their true selves or conform to societal norms, inhibiting authenticity.
  • Pressure to Conform: Organizational cultures that prioritize conformity over individuality may discourage authentic expression and foster a climate of conformity.
  • Lack of Self-Awareness: Leaders who lack self-awareness may struggle to understand their values, feelings, beliefs, and motivations, making it challenging to align their actions with their authentic selves.
  • Inauthentic Environments: Toxic work environments characterized by distrust, dishonesty, and lack of psychological safety can erode authenticity and encourage self-protection.
  • Overemphasis on Image: Leaders who prioritize maintaining a certain image or reputation may compromise authenticity by prioritizing perception over genuine expression.

Authenticity creates a nurturing environment leading to lasting productivity, trust and collaboration. If you are a leader or aspiring leader and want to become more authentic, book a coaching call with us or request a quote for our team training.