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Authenticity: The Virtual Leader’s Most Effective Tool
The ultimate goal of a quality leader is to build meaningful relationships and through them, high-performance teams. This goal gains added importance in the context of virtual leadership.
According to the Future of Jobs report of the World Economic Forum, in the future, “soft skills”, such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and creative thinking will gain value. Allow me to add authenticity to that list.
Authenticity is the virtual leader’s most effective tool in building quality, genuine, meaningful, and valuable relationships. In this article, I explore ways to achieve authentic leadership, as well as the general set of traits authentic leaders should possess.
Defining Authentic Leadership
The road to effective intelligent leadership leads through authenticity.
To be authentic is to be original, genuine, and unique. Authenticity is antithetic to imitation, copying behaviors, and “borrowing” someone else’s guiding compass.
In the context of intelligent leadership, authenticity means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, properly leveraging the former, and assuming full responsibility for the impact you have on your reports/fellow leaders. The behavior of an authentic leader consistently inspires trust.
You cannot be authentic without knowing what you stand for, what you value, and what your mission is.
In my book, Intelligent Leadership, I defined self-awareness as the ability to be introspective and to recognize feelings as they happen. I also identified self-awareness as the cornerstone of emotional intelligence.
Allow me to expand that definition by adding the ability to continuously self-reflect, learning about yourself, and developing the way you see yourself and the world.
Transparency and Honesty in Relationships
Often, intrigue, passive aggression, and convoluted messaging sidetrack quality leadership. An authentic leader is honest with his/her team and takes ownership of mistakes. The goal of authentic leadership is to foster trust. Honesty and transparency are indispensable ingredients of the trust-cocktail.
Your team and your interlocutors need to know where you stand at all times.
Giving up the Ego
An authentic leader considers other viewpoints and alternative solutions before making a decision. You may be tempted to rely solely on your capabilities and experience, but remaining open to discussion is at least as important as sticking to your values.
Get that ego out of the way!
Considering opposing viewpoints may draw your attention to flaws in your plans. As an authentic leader, you need to get your ego out of the way, creating an environment that encourages your reports to contribute their opinions and perspectives.
Doing the Right Thing
With his/her ego out of the way, the authentic leader understands that the ultimate goal is not his/her success but rather that of his/her organization.
Furthermore, such leaders prioritize the long-term success of their organization, over short-term solutions. Coupled with integrity and a strong moral compass, their authenticity prevails over tempting shortcuts of questionable morality.
There is no precisely defined recipe for authentic leadership. Every authentic leader creates his/her own brand of authenticity. What I have discussed here is a good starting point and perhaps a foundation for this important leadership competency.
In addition to making you a better leader and builder of relationships, in a continuously changing and accelerating world, authenticity may be your last refuge of stability. It is a tool that will always help you cope with change and complexity.