CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - C-Suite Advisory - How to practice authentic leadership

C-Suite Advisory

How to practice authentic leadership


There is much commentary about authentic leadership in business today. Expectations for leadership have also changed, somewhat driven by Millennials who look for a different type of leadership and communication style.

Companies are asking their leaders to be more authentic, approachable and human. But what does this look like in reality? To examine this further, I interviewed a variety of people from around the globe who had been nominated as authentic leaders. I collated their stories and experiences in my latest book, with the aim of sharing what it is to practice authentic leadership.

From my research, interviews and observations, I believe authentic leaders have four common traits when it comes to communication and leadership.

TRAIT 1 – Use Real Words

Authentic leaders don’t hide behind corporate jargon and acronyms because they realise such language isolates and disengages people. On a practical level, they also know that it often leads to miscommunication. Authentic leaders are clear about what they want to say and communicate this in a way that people can easily understand and engage with.

What it looks like in reality:

  • Expand all acronyms unless they are absolutely common knowledge to everyone.
  • Have the courage to ask when you don’t know what something means.
  • Review all your communication to anyone outside your business to ensure it does not contain any confusing jargon or acronyms.
  • Ensure everyone working with you understands the current jargon and acronyms you use internally.

TRAIT 2 – Deal with what’s real

Authentic leaders are prepared to admit their mistakes and say sorry. This is not a partial apology along the lines of, ‘I am sorry if what I said caused offence’ but rather, ‘I am sorry for being offensive’. Authentic leaders have the courage to deal with what’s real in a timely and transparent manner.

What this looks like in reality:

  • Ditch the plastic apologies when a mistake has been made and make a quick and genuine apology instead.
  • Follow any apology with genuine action.
  • Create a culture where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, so your team feels safe to admit mistakes.
  • Understand how hard it can be to rebuild trust once it is lost.

TRAIT 3 – Show what’s real to them

Another common aspect of authentic leaders is that they are aware of what is important to them and they are prepared to bring that to their leadership role. Congruence exists between their professional and personal values and, in some cases, they are prepared to take a public stand for what they believe. The increase of CEO activism is a testament to this.

What this looks like in reality:

  • Be consistent with the way you act at home and at work.
  • Ensure your words and actions are congruent.
  • Take a public stand on social issues if it is important to you and you are in a position to do so.
  • Seek council to understand any potential consequences of your actions before you take them.

TRAIT 4 – Know what’s real for others

Authentic leaders are great listeners who take time to find out what is happening with the people they lead and the customers they serve. To build a genuine connection, they focus on understanding the issues and challenges their people experience as well as their expectations of leadership.

What this looks like in reality:

  • Understand the strong human instinct of self-preservation when asking for feedback.
  • Create a safe environment where feedback can be shared.
  • Ask probing questions and be prepared to sit in silence. Become a good, non-judgemental listener.
  • Spend real time with your employees to understand what is important to them and if necessary, schedule it in your diary, especially in times of change and uncertainty

With experience and wisdom, you gain a greater understanding of what works for you and your people. Consequently, leaders tend to evolve into authentic leadership over time. However, it takes an ongoing level of self-awareness to keep learning and developing your authentic leadership. It’s worth the effort because the people you lead and the customers you serve deserve nothing less.

Written by Gabrielle Dolan.

Have you read?

# The conflicts modern high achievers are facing by Yu Dan Shi.
# Reassess Worn Out Myths about Work by Ines Temple.
# Cities with the highest average salaries in the world, 2019.
# 5 tools that will boost productivity across your business by Lilach Bullock.
# Why we need to fight our addiction to acronyms by Gabrielle Dolan.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - C-Suite Advisory - How to practice authentic leadership
Gabrielle Dolan
Gabrielle Dolan is a global expert on business storytelling and real communication. Her latest book Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage Employees with Brand Storytelling is available now. Gabrielle, prefers to be called Ral – especially by those she has previously met. She has an MBA and has also completed studies at Harvard which is arguably to compensate for when she failed final year English. A highly sought-after keynote speaker, educator and author, Gabrielle has worked with thousands of high-profile leaders from around the world and helped countless of Australia’s top 50 companies and multinationals to humanise their communications – Telstra, EY, Accenture, VISA, Australia Post, National Australia Bank, Amazon, Vodafone and the Obama Foundation to name drop a few. Gabrielle Dolan is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Instagram, and LinkedIn.