Authenticity in a leader balances the professional with the personal.
People want to work for actual human beings, not soulless robots.
People want to be led by real people, not “work-fueled robots.” The authentic leader behaves as a professional and clearly demonstrates through accomplishments that they’re qualified for their role. At the same time, however, authentic leaders are individuals who demonstrate their capacity for thinking for themselves, having original thoughts, and genuinely caring for the success and well-being of the team.
Without authenticity, you could substitute one leader for another with little effect. At the same time, however, leaders should never use “authenticity” as an excuse for bad behavior. You can be who you are without treating people badly or flouting ethics.
Authenticity in a leader benefits not only leadership, but also the team. Here are four positive effects of authenticity in leadership.
1. More Inspired Teams
Team members led by authentic leaders experience more inspiration. They’re more engaged in what they’re doing and have a stronger sense that their work is meaningful. When the leader genuinely believes in the value of the work, it sets a strong example for everyone else, and people generally respond well, wanting to give their best efforts.
By contrast, leaders who lack authenticity may be motivated by self-aggrandizement, or they may rationalize bad behavior. It’s easy to see how such leaders would fail to inspire the best efforts and best behaviors of team members.
2. Greater Job Satisfaction
Employees who perceive authenticity in their leaders are more likely to experience job satisfaction and overall work happiness, according to a study published in the Leadership & Organization Development Journal. Other positive effects related to job satisfaction and authenticity in leadership include less cynicism, less burnout, and higher levels of trust and performance.
Moreover, a UK study found that leaders who demonstrate authenticity themselves had stronger senses of psychological and subjective well-being and higher levels of self-esteem. In other words, the positive effects of authentic leadership radiate outward from the leader.
3. Better Employee Retention
Authentic leadership helps with employee retention, so you’ll celebrate more employee milestones.
Authentic leadership is concerned with helping team members develop their own skills and competencies, and for that reason, some team members will “outgrow” the company and leave. However, for every employee who leaves, multiple others will choose to stay due to development opportunities and having a leader who believes in them.
In general, helping employees fulfill their promise does not prompt them to grow wings and fly away at the first opportunity. By contrast, it tends to make them want to stay and thrive where they are.
4. Easier Employee Recruitment
Happy employees who stay around due to authenticity in leadership are perhaps the best demonstrators of strong company culture. They tend to make others want to work at the company too. Better retention and lower turnover mean less money and effort are expended in replacing departing employees. It also shows the outside world that this business is a terrific place to work. And that means that when it’s time to fill open positions, it will be easier to find highly qualified candidates.
Leadership development should never stamp out a person’s individuality. It shouldn’t turn leadership teams into armies of clones but should actually help emerging leaders more fully develop their authenticity.
Trying to be someone you’re not in order to fulfill subtle or overt expectations of “what leadership is” quickly becomes exhausting. And it doesn’t produce good results, either. When leadership development embraces diversity and encourages leaders to understand and build upon their own greatest strengths, however, it encourages authenticity in leadership.
Leadership coaching can help the leader who for whatever reason has difficulty with authenticity. After all, people want to work for genuine, honest individuals rather than “empty suits” who check fictitious leadership boxes.
Authenticity in leadership is hugely positive and should be encouraged at every organization. I discuss authenticity in-depth in my latest book The Intelligent Leader because I believe it to be of primary importance. If you’re interested in learning more about authenticity and Intelligent Leadership, I encourage you to check out my books, including my latest book, The Intelligent Leader.