I think authenticity is one of the most underrated leadership drivers, often disregarded, not though by Karrisa Thacker writing for fastcompany.com
You think of yourself as a pretty authentic person, so you reasonably assume you’re likewise a pretty authentic leader. The “good leadership” thing to do would be to test that assumption, which you can start doing by answering these four questions:
- When was the last time you said, “I don’t know” out loud at work?
- Under what specific conditions are you the most difficult to work with?
- Which one of your personal values do you find most challenging to consistently embody?
- Who do you approach on purpose, knowing they’re likely to disagree with you?
Typically, we think of authenticity as being real or genuine, which sounds simple enough. But in reality, authenticity is a composite trait, and psychologists have actually pinpointed four interrelated components that each play a role in being authentic. With that in mind, here are the four fundamental habits of authentic leaders.
When was the last time you said, “I don’t know” out loud at work?
Transparency is as easy to overdo as it is to under-do. Saying too much or too little about what you think or feel can be dangerous for leaders. But on a practical level, there’s one thing that’s rarely a mistake: saying, “I don’t know.”
Sure, you only make it to the senior level by having the answers and charting a good course. But certainty is hard to come by, and sometimes even the best leaders are unsure. The truly authentic ones are honest about that. By saying “I don’t know,” you’re conveying transparency while also sending the message to other smart people that they should bring solutions.
Under what specific conditions are you the most difficult to work with?
We’re generally less well-versed in understanding how those traits show up differently in response to environmental triggers. Authentic leaders grasp what causes them to behave in certain ways at different times. Though others around us will experience us differently in different situations, we ourselves don’t always experience our behavior as quite so inconsistent.
So back to question #2: Even if you think you know the answer to this one, it would be wise to ask a colleague. It might help you become more aware, not just of your self, but of all your selves.
Which one of your personal values do you find most challenging to consistently embody?
When we use words like “morals” or “values,” our thinking gets really lofty really quickly. But leaders know how to ground those principles in their daily practices and experiences. Authenticity is about finding ways to demonstrate your values and good character.
Say you believe that people are your company’s greatest asset: How much time are you actually spending getting to know the people in your company—I mean, reallygetting to know them? Leaders who truly and authentically embody that value spend considerable amounts of time doing just that, and without an agenda of any kind.
Whatever you believe your values to be, you need your reactions to reflect them. What’s more, that shouldn’t take a huge effort of will—the values that you authentically hold can’t help but shine forth.