Over the past few years, study after study has shown the value of “authenticity” and “authentic leadership” in achieving business goals. Greater authenticity correlates with a more positive culture and greater team satisfaction, which in turn correlates with business success. It may seem like a simple equation, but putting it into practice is anything but.
At the most basic level, authenticity is the ability to “be yourself.” Again, that seems simple, but the reality of crafting a consistent identity presents quite a few challenges. Recent research shows that, depending on context, we make different decisions about what part of our “authentic self” to reveal. As the context or environment we’re in changes, so does the aspect of our identity that we tap into most. If the self is, essentially, fluid and contextual, how can we be sure that we are showing up authentically as leaders?
As coaches and consultants, here are some concrete tools and strategies we can use to support clients as they grow and develop as authentic leaders.
Gathering feedback. Helping clients cultivate a personal “board of directors” composed of friends, trusted advisers and colleagues can provide essential feedback. The key to accessing this group wisdom is to create a safe environment in which feedback is welcomed and appreciated. This, of course, requires that you help the client cultivate a strong sense of self and openness to receiving feedback that may be difficult to hear.
Focus groups are another way to help leaders gain insight on the current state of the organization and team as well as how employees view leadership actions vs. leadership values.
Crafting effective communication. Part of this work consists of helping clients balance between authenticity and over-sharing, supporting them in maintaining healthy boundaries without sacrificing the capacity to connect with internal and external teams.
Developing cultural competence. Assessments such as the Cultural Orientations Indicator can assist leaders in identifying their preferences against those of their employees and which preferences are, for them, nonnegotiable or open to styleshifting.
Identifying multicultural role models helps leaders learn the value and skill of style-shifting without losing sense of one’s authentic self.
Cultivating an authentic leadership style, then, is an intense, ongoing effort with no set end goal. It’s more about the cultivation and growth of the individual than about adopting a set of best practices or following a rigid path. (Excerpted from cw.iabc.com) (Story by: Jacqueline Farrington)