Sector News

The Business Impact of Authentic Leadership

April 24, 2015
Borderless Leadership

Workplace diversity is a top goal for companies of all sizes today. Research shows that enterprises which include people of both genders and of multiple generations, cultures and physical abilities increase their productivity, improve the effectiveness of their employee teams and better their bottom line. A more diverse workforce clearly equals rewards.

At the level of the individual, however, less is more. Rather than trying to be “all things” to their employers, people perform better and are more engaged when they focus on being their singular, authentic selves.

When companies also encourage and reward this kind of authenticity and genuineness among their leaders, these leaders, in turn, are more likely to create real value for the organization.

So, how does authenticity support a business? When people feel free to be who and what they are — both privately and publicly — they have more energy to create and innovate. Authentic workers are more likely to bring their whole selves to the job, engage with the company’s goals and participate fully in the mission of the enterprise.

These same employees also recognize and are attracted to authentic leaders, and follow them with greater dedication — leading to stronger teams and enhanced business performance.

Get real.

Authenticity is especially important in the areas of gender and sexual orientation. The corporate world has long trained women to behave and even dress like men. Executives often coach women to negotiate “like a man,” by using male body language, lowering their natural speaking voices and avoiding feminine or frilly clothing — so that they will be taken “seriously.” Yet covering up natural female behaviors or appearances to seem more masculine does not help women lead effectively.

“The women I see succeeding bring their whole self to it,” Barbara Annis told NBC News. Annis is founding partner of Gender Intelligence Group and the chair emeritus of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School. “They’re empowered, and they’re driven by their values,” Annis continued. “The key is really to be authentic.”

Similarly, many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in leadership positions believe they must mask their sexual orientation to be viewed as effective. Yet, businesspeople who feel they must hide something about themselves find it hard to relax and concentrate on their work. They spend precious energy covering up their differences and attempting to minimize the perceived stigma of what actually makes them unique.

As a result, when they’re in an executive role, they may be inauthentic leaders — and inauthentic leaders tend to be less productive and to experience higher rates of burnout. In fact, some researchers suggest that inauthentic people may be as much as 20 percent less productive than employees who feel comfortable presenting their authentic selves to the world.

Worse, inauthentic leaders may breech the trust that is so essential to startups and entrepreneurial companies. A lack of authenticity, after all, is palpable. People sense that they see an incomplete or misleading picture, even if they don’t understand why. This disconnect can inadvertently create mistrust in working relationships among colleagues, suppliers, customers and prospects.

Lead courageously.

Business leaders can take steps to encourage authenticity in the workforce -– and in the process show their own authentic selves. By encouraging people to be who they truly are, and by welcoming differences, leaders create a more supportive, productive work environment. Employees then become more engaged and willing to take risks. They channel their energy into innovation, which inevitably benefits the company.

To accomplish these things at their companies, leaders must pave the way by taking steps to become authentic themselves. Instead of striving to be seen as all-knowing and all-powerful, effective business executives must be prepared to show their own humanity through vulnerability.

Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, who presented a powerful TEDx talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” explains that at its core, leadership is really about relationships. And being in a relationship with anyone requires a certain degree of vulnerability.

Leaders who display invulnerability create disengagement throughout the company culture. But embracing vulnerability, Brown says, is the key to creating an effective workforce for the future. “Re-humanizing work and education requires courageous leadership,” says Brown. “It requires leaders who are willing to take risks, embrace vulnerabilities and show up as imperfect, real people.”

Of course, overcoming a longstanding cultural preference for invulnerable leaders and displaying our authentic selves is not always easy. Leaders must be ever ready to overcome societal norms and organizational cultures that prefer more traditional yet less effective leadership styles.

Still, becoming a more authentic leader is a battle worth fighting. Leaders who fully embrace authenticity themselves and take steps to welcome it into their company culture can realize tremendous rewards — for themselves and their organizations.

Source: CEO

By: Anka Wittenberg

comments closed

Related News

November 27, 2022

How great leaders communicate

Borderless Leadership

Transformational leaders are exceptional communicators. In this piece, the author outlines four communication strategies to help motivate and inspire your team: 1) Use short words to talk about hard things. 2) Choose sticky metaphors to reinforce key concepts. 3) Humanize data to create value. 4). Make mission your mantra to align teams.

November 19, 2022

What matters most? Six priorities for CEOs in turbulent times

Borderless Leadership

With economic troubles mounting, it’s a time to tighten belts and put on hard hats. But don’t forget the jet pack, to accelerate into the next phase of growth. What matters most today? Just as we did last year, we’ve spoken with hundreds of leaders this year and found six priorities that feature prominently on CEO agendas worldwide.

November 13, 2022

Nine steps to meaningful change

Borderless Leadership

By nature, we humans like what we know and distrust what we don’t; seek our comfort zones and shun our wilderness experiences; prefer the familiar and fear the unknown. As we will never again live in a world without significant change, here’s a suggested nine-step road map, especially when change has to be interventional.