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3 Keys to Authentic Leadership

Sara Carter

Posted by Sara Carter
July 24, 2018

Being a leader doesn’t just mean issuing orders and expecting people to listen. The days of command-and-control are over. Today, the most effective leaders rely on authenticity to influence and inspire their teams.

Authentic leadership can’t be easily taught: it’s the process of being true to your own character and demonstrating to others that you’re the real deal. However, there are a few behaviors that are fundamental to growing your authenticity and earning the trust of your employees.

Engaged Communication

A simple yet often overlooked component of leadership is good two-way communication. Whether it’s sharing ideas, providing constructive criticism, or having a personal conversation, it’s important to communicate your ideas clearly and show that you care and are present. When listening it’s important to be engaged and show you care about what the employee is saying. Put away the phone and laptop, ask follow-up questions, and take notes on key points.

Agreeing to an idea or thought is nice, but acting upon their idea or implementing what you spoke about is the most important thing. Agreeing to everything but acting on nothing will only lead to distrust and, ultimately, disengagement.


“Leaders with integrity are not afraid to face the truth,” writes Brian Tracy on “This is called the reality principle, or ‘seeing the world as it really is, not as you wish it to be.’” By being honest with your employees from the beginning—on everything from feedback on their work to updates on how the company is performing—you build trust, spark crucial conversations, and avoid the uncomfortable truth coming out later on. 

That being said you can’t always be completely transparent with employees. Sharing certain types of sensitive data can cause unforeseen consequences like jealousy, misunderstandings, and even data breaches. But unless you have a really good reason for withholding something your employees would care about, be open with your team.

Strong Integrity

Integrity has always been, and always will be, a top attribute in a leadership role. It’s vital in achieving success in both your personal work and in building trust with others. If you want people to follow you, you absolutely must demonstrate that you have principles that don’t waver under pressure. 

Many companies list “integrity” as one of their core values, but how often does it actually reflect the behavior of leaders? It’s not enough to say you have integrity: you have to show it, on a personal level. If you do so, you will set the tone for how your team operates, and you'll positively reflect on the broader organization. When your employees respect your integrity as a leader, they’re much likelier to respect the integrity of the company. 

For better or worse, you can’t fake being authentic. Employees can tell if you’re putting on a show or trying to impress others, and that won’t go over well.

According to Bill George, the man who coined the term, authentic leadership is built on your character. You don’t have to be a larger-than-life hero type, nor do you have to be preternaturally skilled. You simply have to stick to your core values, demonstrate ethical behavior, and commit to building an enduring team with a clear and purposeful mission.

Sara Carter

Sara Carter

Sara Carter is cofounder of Enlightened Digital, entrepreneur, and Bostonian. I spend my days writing code, chasing my children and/or dog, and perfecting my brownie recipe.