By Kevin Kruse
What are some ways you can improve as an authentic leader?
To some people, the term “authentic leadership” causes them to roll their eyes. They dismiss the concept of authentic leadership as something typically espoused by a motivational do-gooder, or someone who isn’t connected to the reality of business.
But author Jeff Davis discusses in his new book, The Power of Authentic Leadership: Activating the 13 Keys to Achieving Prosperity Through Authenticity, that authentic leadership prowess is a cornerstone trait needed for success not just at work, but in life as well. Through conversations with Senators, billionaires, New York Times bestselling authors, and extremely successful business owners, coupled with his own research and application, Davis believes that authentic leadership is the essential ingredient for prosperity.
Hardly theoretical, authentic leadership is something that can be used and applied on a day-to-day basis, and it is needed now more than ever. In a nutshell, it’s more about being true to your word and demonstrating by example than it is about getting people to follow you or telling others what to do.
So what are some practical ways you can improve your authentic leadership skillset, starting today? Davis provides five keys to embrace in your leadership development toolkit.
Reveal Your True Self
Authentic leaders don’t hide who they really are. Instead, they reveal their true selves to those around them. This does not mean they share with the world every detail about their personal lives or something that’s irrelevant to others. But it does mean they are open and vulnerable about some of the challenges they may be facing or have faced in the past. They ask themselves, how can I share this challenge in a way that helps and uplifts others? They think through what they want to say ahead of time and they share purposefully, but they’re never afraid to share.
An example would be a company that recently had to lay off a number of their employees. Instead of getting up in front of the company and giving employees an artificially vague sense about what happened, a CEO could explain exactly why the company had to layoff these particular individuals. The CEO could then be open about a challenge the company is having in part of their operations, and use genuine encouragement to reinforce behavior that will solve the challenge.
Get Feedback From Others
Many of the people Davis features in his book talked about the importance of getting feedback from others. This is not always easy to do, as our egos are sometimes afraid of getting the honest thoughts of others. The truth is feedback will help us to take our authentic leadership to the next level. The key is to weed out the irrelevant feedback that doesn’t apply to you, instead focusing on the helpful feedback from trusted friends and colleagues.
Instead of blaming others or complaining about their situation, authentic leaders treat each experience as a learning opportunity. They ask questions like, “what can I learn from this”? And “how can I do better next time”? They don’t take to heart every piece of constructive criticism, but they use their intuition to apply the kernels of feedback that make sense.
Release the Need to Be Liked By Everyone
Davis actually contacted me when conducting research for his book, asking my own views on being authentic. I told him that most people are walking the tightrope between their need to express their own identity, and their need to fit in. These are really primal urges. For myself, I remind myself daily of all the things I’m grateful for in life, and that I only really need the love and approval of my kids and a couple of couple close friends to be happy. When you don’t need to be liked or loved by everyone, it frees you up to be your True Self.
Find the Balance
Authentic leaders are confident, yet humble. This is a challenge at times, but authentic leaders are always striving to find the balance point. They know they are worthy and fully believe in themselves and their abilities, yet they are down-to-earth, practical, and focused on implementing behaviors they can put into practice today.
Know Your Values and Embrace Who You Are
Authentic leaders take the time to get to know themselves and their core values. Most know the value of doing this, but never take the time to actually do it in reality. This process includes reflecting in a journal, talking to others, and engaging with the community at large. Bestselling author Jeff Goins told Davis, “In one light, yes, people will tell you to do this or that, and it may not be relevant to you. But in another light, you won’t find your true self alone. It happens in community, when others see something in us.”
Ultimately, authentic leaders know they must express more of who they already are. If you haven’t expressed your leadership potential, it doesn’t mean you are lacking leadership abilities. It simply means you may not have fully tapped into those parts of yourself yet.