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What Does Authentic Leadership Really Mean For the Future of Work?

June 10, 2015

What does it mean to be an authentic leader?

How do we know when we are being one?

What is the impact on our people and the business overall?

A November 2014 survey by Interaction Associates revealed that of those surveyed over half gave their leaders low marks on trust and effective leadership. Why?

Well it turns out that talking about being an authentic leader and actually modelling or behaving as an authentic leader are two completely different things.

First when we look at what it means to be an authentic leader it means you build trust through self disclosure, through honest revelation of your own fears and doubts while sharing in a way that inspires and motivates others to trust you and to work harder because of your candid sharing of your insecurities.

How do we know we are being an authentic leader? We will know because people share their fears, doubts and are less afraid to fail and more eager to innovate and to collaborate for solutions. We will also know because people will confide in in us and will want to help us the leaders and the teams to find answers to the challenges that we collectively face.

What is the impact on the business and people overall? Trust. Plain and simple, when a leader is focused on being ‘real’ and ‘keeping it real’ for others there is a camaraderie and a team bond that is formed. To be an authentic leader is to not be attached to your identity as a ‘leader’ and to see yourself and your team through the lens of ‘everyone is a leader’.

If more than half of the companies surveyed responded saying they don’t trust their leader or the leaders of the company then that reflects in the authenticity of the overall brand as well. Customers can sniff out inauthentic efforts and will gravitate towards companies where they sense that trust is an integral component of the business.

A great example of this is The Honest Company the very name generates trust with both employees and consumers and sets a very high standard that everyone who interacts with the brand will indeed be, ‘honest’.

In fact on the website for The Honest Company under their principles they say:

Create a Culture of Honesty

“We are serious about honesty – both as it applies to the integrity of our relationships and in being true to you. And, it’s a standard we encourage throughout our staff, stakeholders, and customers. But, that’s just the beginning. In all we do, we want to make each day a little more fulfilling, inspired, and downright better.”

The create a culture of honesty is a great declaration of authenticity that is part of the brand and a cultural expectation. I have not personally worked with The Honest Company but I sense that they are a company with authentic leaders. A leader simply couldn’t or wouldn’t last in a brand where the culture is so overtly stating it expects authenticity.

Which is indeed honest.

What does authentic leadership mean for the future of work – it means it is absolutely mandatory for employee engagement as well as for increased customer engagement as well.



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