Four Steps To Be An Authentic Leader


I learn so much from the participants in my workshops and coaching sessions. They inspire me to try new things and be more open-minded. They share profound stories of both triumph and defeat as we work through ways to grow, be more accountable and be generous to others. I am always impressed how willing they are to reflect on their past and current work and personal situations with a desire to learn. In my eyes, they are the “real thing” and that is no easy feat. Have you ever wondered what it looks like to be an authentic leader?

 Step One- Be honest about who you are

Many of us have a challenging time accepting our good, bad and ugly sides. Of course we want to try to present our strongest qualities all the time, but that just isn’t an accurate representation of our entire character. We are human after all and that means we have lessons to learn, skills to master and knowledge to absorb. We don’t always make the best decisions that may lead to imperfect end results. So what! The key is to acknowledge where we excel and where we fall short.


 Step Two- Be open to learning new ways

In my last week’s Communication workshop, a participant arrived feeling that this was just another program they knew all about. How many courses does one really need to take in communication? I could feel the frustration, yet knew I needed to reach out and expand their preconceived notion of the day. Well something happened and this person decided to become part of the fun and learning. They became engaged before they knew it and didn’t try to stop themselves but rather joined in with energy. They consciously made the decision to just stay open and what a contribution they made!

Step Three- Recognize how you are feeling

Although it is often important to separate emotions from making objective decisions, it is equally important to reveal how one feels about an issue. This is important because it allows us to admit how our emotion is impacting our actions or inactions. For example, if we feel that our boss is constantly micromanaging us, then we might miss an assignment that is a growth possibility. If we feel that another department is taking advantage of us, we may overlook an opportunity to collaborate. Just be aware of your emotions. 

Step Four- Commit to taking action

One cannot be authentic without following through on what they said they would do. At the end of each of my coaching sessions we jointly decide on the action steps to be taken before we meet again. Accomplishing or at least attempting to tackle those activities is essential to building trust and meeting goals. We are committing to each other to genuinely give our agreed objectives a try and then showing up next time with what we did and learned. It’s not important that all was accomplished; it is essential that the effort was made.

How do you show that you are an authentic leader? What steps have you taken to emulate authenticity?

 (photo credit)

13 thoughts on “Four Steps To Be An Authentic Leader

  1. Terri, I’m so curious about how you changed the reluctant participant’s view of the workshop. It’s usually the folks that don’t think they need to be there, that need it the most.

  2. Great question Karin. I changed this participant’s mind by first acknowledging that they had every right to feel that way. Then I asked them to give me and the program a shot. I kept soliciting their help and asked for input from them throughout. My workshops have a lot of movement and activity. Before they knew it they were involved and leading.
    What have you done to involve an unwilling participant? It can be challenging.

  3. For some people, they put so much energy in to projecting “perfect” to the world that it seems impossible. When we embrace our gifts and the places we struggle the most we are able to come to a place where we can not only be honest and authentic with ourselves but develop authentic relationships.

    Thanks for sharing the learning from the people you get to work with every day. What a joy!

  4. Love this, Terri.

    Authenticity is the hardest thing for many people, because it means digging down to uncover all aspects of their personality. Too often, people do not want to explore the shadow side of who they are, but unless they do they can never be authentic…

    Glad to see it’s at the top of your list!

  5. I love your understanding of authenticity, Alli as we do need to recognize both our gifts and our challenges. When we try to live up to a certain image, it usually means we are not accepting of who we are. I always try to reassure people that no matter what they excel in, love that piece of themselves. I know for me, it took many years to figure out what I truly wanted and needed to pursue.

  6. LaRae, it is impossible to be authentic without looking at our warts as well. It is those things that challenge us the most, we need to understand.

    I can sense when a person is not being authentic and just trying to copy someone else because they feel they want to be like them. That’s never a good idea and will usually take us down the wrong crossroad.

  7. Terri, your “follow through” point speaks to my “left brain.” I’m a huge proponent of not leaving a meeting without a clear plan of action…with subsequent follow-up on that plan. A good post. Good work on getting the reluctant participant turned around!

  8. Love your idea, Joy, of not leaving a meeting without a clear plan of action! So many leaders just have meeting upon meeting and never set forth the necessary next steps that are agreed upon. Authenticity grows when we can walk the talk.

    I appreciate your support, Joy!

  9. Terri

    I love your post.

    “Be honest with who you are.”

    If we are honest. we all want to be liked.

    if we are honest, we all want to know we matter.

    If we are honest, we want to make a difference.

    but sometimes what we see and what we do, might just get us not to be liked, not to matter and we are unable to make a difference and that is where the honesty comes to play.

    Be HONEST no matter what….to who you are.

    Your post really got me thinking…thank you for creating such good content.


  10. It is difficult to be honest about ourselves when we feel others are judging us. By building our confidence and believing in what we really care about empowers us to be genuine and authentic.

    Leading by helping other people find their gifts and modeling trust, will create future leaders with authenticity.

    I love “be honest no matter what…to who you are”


  11. What a lovely post Terri. You bring your passion, authenticity and your rich experience in your posts. Thank you for being you. I loved the way you got a potential disinterested or hostage to an active participant. You genuinely thought from the other person’s perspective.

    Your 4 points are fantastic and touches the core. By walking our talk we inspire and motivate others and create the change they want to see.

  12. I appreciate your kind words and support Lalita!

    As a seasoned corporate trainer, I have learned so much about motivation and meeting people wherever they are. Because I am open to learning from them as well, my participants are “partners in growing” with me. I truly love what I do especially when people leave my workshops feeling empowered.

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