What Does It Mean To Be An Authentic Leader?

Leadership is an inside job. As leadership speaker Robin Sharma suggests, "You cannot lead others until you have first learned to lead yourself."

What is authentic leadership?

Today it means developing your own leadership style that includes both your strengths and weaknesses. It is about being your own person, instead of trying to be someone you are

Most of us think of a great leader as someone who is charismatic with an eloquent tongue that could sell ice to an eskimo. While influence is the latest trend, it’s not the most important (nor is it the only) characteristic of an authentic leader.


5 marks of an authentic leader


  1. Vision – They see new trends and can look at the bigger picture and see it as a whole as well as its parts.

  2. Initiative –They jump in and do instead of waiting for others to step up, this can be considered an example to the rest of the team.

  3. Influence – they have the ability to influence others to see the solutions or answers as they see it yet still will listen to other opinions and change
 accordingly if they are presented with a solution that would be better.

  4. Impact –Leaders can impact their team and others as an example Luther Martin King left a lasting impact on the civil rights movement.

  5. Integrity – this quality is a major asset to authentic leaders; people respect them because they speak straight and mean what they say. People trust and
 respect the authentic leader because they keep their promises.


More qualities that make an authentic leader

While the five marks of an authentic leader are essential, there are other remarkable qualities that they possess. Authentic leaders:


  • Have self-awareness – They tend to look harder at themselves than at others which allow them to know their strengths and weaknesses.
 They work hard to overcome their fears and build on their strengths.

  • Listen well – Listening gives them the ability to see the other side of the discussion and change their mind on
 something if the other side of the argument makes sense.

  • Are consistent – Consistency is another characteristic of authentic leaders. They are true to their principles and are not persuaded by trivialities.

  • Acknowledge others – Sharing success with the team and acknowledging those who deserve credit by given them credit where it is due is a prevailing trait.


Emotional intelligence matters

Authentic leaders draw on their own experiences and generally have a clear perception of themselves. This understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs is fundamental – simply put, they’re emotionally intelligent. This helps authentic leaders in four ways:


  • Self-awareness – interpreting emotions and identifying their impact;

  • Self-management – directing feelings and acclimating to change;

  • Social awareness – understanding others’ feelings in order to modify your interactions and achieve better results

  • Relationship management – inspiring, influencing, and advancing others while handling conflict.


Self awareness if fundamental for leaders. The reality is: “You can read every productivity tip out there , you can adapt the routines of geniuses , and you can eat up every piece of self-help that comes across the computer screen, but it’s completely pointless if you don’t know yourself well enough to put the correct advice into practice.”

If you want to become more self aware, practice the following tips:


  • learn from your mistakes and victories

  • reflect on the lessons that life has taught you through meditation, prayer, or journaling

  • get honest feedback from the people you associate with often to see where you may need to improve


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Leadership impacts productivity

Authentic leadership leads to improved productivity by learning how to:


  • Delegate

  • Communicate well

Provide a fun work place (a byproduct of company culture)

Problem solve by including others opinions on decision making

  • Give praise and credit where it’s due to boost team morale


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Ultimately, it’s important for professionals in any career to learn how to highlight leadership skills. Instead of trying to emulate or be someone else it, true leaders (i.e. authentic leaders) are true to themselves. They have the ability to lead in a vast array of situations, from the office to their community. Leadership is an inside job. As leadership speaker Robin Sharma suggests, “You cannot lead others until you have first learned to lead yourself.”


This article has been edited and condensed.

Patrick Cole is an entrepreneur and freelancer. He is also a contributing blogger for several websites. Patrick loves self-education and rock music.
 Connect with @Colen8P on Twitter.


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