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Power of Authenticity

To become a more authentic leader, try to incorporate four behaviours into your leadership style:

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Authentic leadership is a form of leadership where leaders lead with their hearts, are self aware, genuine, and mission driven.

Authentic leadership has direct implications for employee's job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and workplace happiness. It also affects how inclusive employees feel a workplace is, and is positively related to citizenship behaviours (i.e. an employee’s voluntary commitment towards tasks that are outside his or her job scope). Research also suggests that authentic leaders create positive psychological states, foster trust in employees, which in turn fosters engagement and creativity.

Keeping it raw and real also helps a leader build legitimacy. Leaders don’t need to be perfect, airbrushed, or straight out of business school textbooks- they just need to be their true and genuine selves. The tricky part is this- no one can “teach” you how to be yourself. While you may learn from and try to emulate certain qualities of great leaders, you have to let your individual attributes shine through and be your own person- the very definition of authentic leadership demands that. 

To become a more authentic leader, try to incorporate 4 behaviours into your leadership style:

  1. Work towards becoming more self aware:

Know the ins and outs of your strengths, weaknesses, emotions, and how you respond to different situations. Get in touch with your inner self through journalling or meditation. If your company has a 360 degree evaluation framework, pay attention to the feedback your colleagues give you so that you can discover things about yourself you weren’t conscious of.

2. Create relational transparency:

Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Keep communication open, honest and straightforward. This will also encourage employees to speak up about issues in the company’s operations that may have been overlooked, and make room for worthwhile suggestions. 

3. Practise balanced processing:

Take into account multiple viewpoints before making a decision. Although decisiveness is a key trait in a good leader, you must also be able to view an issue through different lenses and seek multiple perspectives to come up with well-rounded solutions.

4. Have an internalized moral perspective:

Leaders must use their personal values to guide their behaviour and uphold their ethics when making decisions. The choices that you make also set an example for your employees- so don’t cut corners, choose what’s right over what’s easy, and let your moral compass guide your direction.

It seems quite contradictory that authenticity, which should be an organic and effortless way of being, is in fact so deliberate and requires so much work. Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones write about the paradox of authenticity for the Harvard Business Review, and propose that even authenticity needs to be managed. Here are two pointers to be mindful of:

  1. Managing perceptions: Be relatable- you may have to bring forward different aspects of your personality depending on your audience. This doesn’t mean you need to pretend or be insincere, it simply means that you need to know which side of yourself you need to shine a light on depending on the situation you are in.
  2. Conform, but just enough: Use your judgement to discern how much you want to conform to norms. Don’t buckle under the pressure to “stand out” and distance yourself from your followers and colleagues, but know when you need to conform to gain initial acceptance and trust.

The expression of the authentic self is not as uncomplicated as it seems, but with patience, practice and experience- you can master the art of being an authentic leader. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Shailja Dutt

Shailja Dutt is the Founder & Chairperson of Stellar Search.

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