There is no shortage of books, articles, research and media blitzes attempting to identify the best leadership model. However, there cannot be one model, or example of a perfect leader; instead, great leaders can be found within different archetypes, each with their own individual style to take charge and guide others.
What many believe is the critical characteristic regardless of the leadership style or model, is authenticity. Although espoused as a model, authentic leadership is more a quality. Have you ever met another leader whose words faultlessly match their heart when they speak? Someone who you may perhaps even disagree with, but you cannot view them without respect and inspiration? Often authentic leadership is used to describe this type of leader. Authentic leaders are those described as those,
- Having honest relationships with others,
- Living their values
- Valuing the input of others
- Focusing on what matters
- Following a strong ethical foundation
- Promoting openness and transparency
- Inspiring others
- Maintaining positivity
A leader can fully develop and perfect their authentic leadership by following these six tips and cultivating the qualities of: Self Awareness, Values, Purpose and Meaning, Compassion & Empathy, Mindfulness Based Relationships, and Wisdom. These are the qualities or elements of Dimensions’ leadership model based on the Integral Levels of Leadership identified by J Scouller, which include Personal, Private and Public levels of leadership.
1. Enhance Self-Awareness
Self-awareness has been deemed as the most important quality for leaders to develop, according to research
conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council. We discussed this previous in one of
the 25 Tip blogs for inspiring Others but is worth repeating since self-awareness is the necessary foundation for
authenticity and for becoming a great leader. Knowing and being comfortable with who you are, your own life
story and personal struggles informs who you are as a leader.
It also strengthens your character as a leader and an individual, because you are able to realize and analyze
your habits, emotions and triggers before reacting in situations; in other words, fostering high emotional
intelligence. Enhancing self-awareness does not require large commitments of time or effort. Simple techniques
achieve significant benefits and include,
- Practicing mindfulness techniques to become aware of emotional responses and habitual patterns
- Journaling or writing down typical ways you react to others and in certain situations including the reasons or past experiences that reinforce such habits
- Completing personality profiles such as Myers Briggs Type Indicators and emotional intelligence assessments.
2. Know Your Personal Values
Identifying and living your values are also key elements of an authentic leader. The behaviors of authentic
leaders align with their values. How a leader acts rather than just the words they state speaks volumes about
An earlier blog defined values as, “one’s principles, what are most important in business and life”. The blog also
described that values for both should align. “Values are our north star, what guides us in all decisions and
should never be compromised. Living by your values and being the person that others want to follow actually go
together. Employees WILL follow leaders whose values align with theirs and when they perceive that the
leaders live by their values.” Live Your Values
3. Purpose and Meaning
Another key quality for authentic leaders is that they know their purpose in work, life and as a leader. Such
leaders also instil meaning and purpose for the work that employees perform. In fact, employees rank having
meaning and purpose at work higher than compensation.
Authentic leaders not only have clarity regarding the connection between what they highly value, behaviors and
work performed, but are able to articulate this connection for employees. Although meaning and purpose are
different for everyone, authentic leaders cultivate the ability to nurture what employees need as human beings
such as a sense of belonging, social connection, appreciation, mastery, and recognition.
Leaders are in the key position to communicate the values and mission of the organization to help employees
realize the value, purpose and meaning of what the work they do and why what they do matters. There are
many ways to foster this such as,
- Recognizing, acknowledging, appreciating, and validating the contributions and accomplishments of employees
- Cultivating a sense of community and camaraderie
- Sharing stories of the impact the organization is making in the lives of real people,
- Having those impacted by the organization present their story
- Displaying pictures and stories of those impacted by the work
4. Compassion and Empathy
Leading with compassion and empathy not only create more humanistic workplaces, but also cultivate highly
effective leaders and teams. Compassion is acting with care, generosity and concern towards others. It is
assuming the best in others and that employees have the best of intentions, rather than coming from a place of
suspicion, distrust, and negative judgment. Such negativity is contagious and will ripple through the entire
organization decreasing productivity, performance, motivation and engagement; stifling collaboration,
engagement and sense of camaraderie; and increasing absenteeism and turnover.
Empathy on the other hand is the ability to put one’s self in another’s shoes, or ‘see through someone else’s
eyes’. Empathy builds stronger understanding and connections with others, plus it has been demonstrated that
empathic leaders make better decisions. It is truly impossible to lead without cultivating empathy.
And here’s the thing, such qualities are mistakenly considered as ‘soft’ skills in some corporations, but MANY
organizations know better. Make no mistake, these are essential ‘hard’ skills that are crucial to develop.
Compassion and empathy may be more natural responses for some but are qualities that can be practiced and
In addition to self-awareness, compassion and empathy form the foundation for the next skill to cultivate,
Mindfulness Based Relationships.
5. Mindfulness Based Relationships
Leaders cannot succeed on their own, actually no one can. Beings are social creatures and rely on relationships
with others in order to thrive. Authentic leaders relate with others in order to develop the essential qualities.
Authentic leaders cultivate a network of relationships that support, motivate, and inspire each other. This
network of individuals provides beneficial advice and support that promotes flourishing, thriving, and prosperity
for all. This is the basis of mindfulness based relationships.
The formation of such relationships is created on trust, respect, compassion, empathy, self-awareness, and
valuing each other. There is a balanced perspective and supportive environment, which promotes active
listening and open communication. Such relationships coach, mentor, and challenge each other to grow and
learn thereby nurturing authentic leader development throughout the organization.
Authentic leaders model such relationships and create the space as well as the resources for employees to get
to know each and build such relationships. This fosters a strong sense of community and belonging. Authentic
leaders also provide opportunities for employees to learn the ‘hard’ skills of self-awareness, active listening,
curiosity and learning, valuing others, humility and forgiveness, respect, emotional intelligence, and positivity.
6. Leading with Wisdom
Leading certainly requires skills, experience, and knowledge. But leading with wisdom is so more than these,
isn’t it? A component is certainly realizing you cannot know all the answers or have all the necessary
information. This is wise for all of us to realize. However, more foundational is that wisdom is more than mere
knowing, right? Leading with wisdom has more to do with one’s character than with the information one knows.
How do you define leading with wisdom? It may be easier to reflect on individuals who you believe possess this
character. Who comes to mind? Is it those who practice self-awareness? Humility? Kindness? Respect?
Inclusivity? Those who listen, value others, forgive? Those who are compassionate, honest and trustworthy?
Certainly, it is a practice and lofty goal that is illusive and unattainable. But it is the practice that shines in such
character, regardless of perfection.
It is also through practice that leaders develop authenticity and comfort in their style of leading! There is not one model that can do this. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about personal, private, and public levels of leadership in order to develop your own authentic style.