Tips for Emerging Leaders: Authenticity

This is part 11 of a 12-part series.

Successfully leading a team can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a professional’s career. However, addressing a diverse group effectively can be difficult for new leaders. From open communication and recognition to delegation and empowerment to self-awareness and empathy, there are a plethora of leadership arrows professionals must carry in their quivers to be successful. So during this series, we will examine 12 areas of focus and reveal practical tips to help new leaders in some of the most important aspects of leadership. Eleventh up: authenticity.


The word “integrity” derives from the root “integral,” meaning whole or complete. A leader of integrity can be viewed as a Venn diagram where both circles are viewed as one, as opposed to the classic intertwining interpretation. All parts of the individual are whole and transparent creating authenticity. Being an authentic leader who is transparent and comfortable in your own skin isn’t just what employees desire in leadership, it’s also needed to be the best leader you can be, as research shows inauthentic individuals can be up to 20% less productive than those who are able to present themselves as completely authentic.

However, according to the Harvard Business Review, only 18% of individuals trust business leaders to be truthful; moreover, nearly half of all managers don’t trust their leaders to do the right thing. The disconnect can be attributed to a low level of authentic leadership in organizations. To fix this, experts have identified four key components of Authentic Leadership to focus on: self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing, and a strong moral code.

  1. Self-Awareness

Successful leaders are highly self-aware individuals and align their values with their behaviors. Effective leaders know how to lead themselves first, understanding the impact of the decisions they make, as well as the influence they have. In contrast, obtuse leaders are those who dictate to others without either realizing or caring how decisions affect others.

  1. Relational Transparency

While it is important to have healthy, professional boundaries in the workplace, it is also important for leaders to share their true selves to their team. This is where integrity is key: showing your whole self without creating an unrealistic, manufactured version you think your team needs. Authentic leaders showcase their strengths and weaknesses to their team, being transparent in their wins and failures. This is key in building trust among your team.

  1. Balanced Processing

Humans tend to process information differently depending on which side of the brain is engaged: the rational left or the empathetic left. A successful leader is able to process data while balancing both. This type of self-regulating information is a major aspect of emotional intelligence that helps develop an empathetic leader. When dealing with obstacles, goalsetting, or management issues, it’s important to weigh different alternatives, consider all outcomes, and be able to explain all decisions to employees. Being transparent about feelings, motives, and personal values that factor into decision making helps solidify cultural integrity within the organization.

  1. Strong Moral Code

Leaders who have a steady and established code of ethics they live and lead by help set a standard for their employees. Knowing all decisions are filtered through specific values help employees feel confident and comfortable that leadership has their best interest at heart. And building a culture around a specific set of values and ethics can help an organization rally around a specific ethical goal, encouraging all participants to embrace the same moral code.

What are some important authenticity tips you’ve learned during your career? How has a focus on being an authentic professional helped you lead a successful team? Let us know in the comments section below!

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