I can easily recognize a fake leader. When they attend my workshops or I partner with them to resolve an organizational challenge, I can see right through them. They usually will tell me in a loud manner what needs to be done and how it should be executed. They rarely leave room for my input and often attack my opinions. I once collaborated on a presentation project with this kind of person and I felt invisible at times, because they had difficulty hearing my suggestions. As I result I choose not to partner with them on any future work.
Fake leaders also have inflated egos, which often are a cover for their low self-esteem. They will only allow others to see one side of what they stand for, as they fear they will be exposed for the frauds they are if they open up. Do you know these types of leaders? Do you have these people in your work worlds? To me, they are not leaders at all because authenticity is essential for leadership.
Here are five ways I have learned to be an authentic leader:
1. BE GENUINE
There is nothing like sincerity and honesty when we connect with others. When we lead from wherever we are, we must be truthful about our thoughts and feelings. If we disagree with someone, just say it in a respectful way and be truthful with your explanation. Instead of quoting other people’s opinions, be clear about your point of view while welcoming a continued dialogue.
2. DITCH BEING A KNOW-IT-ALL
In my work experiences, I stay clear of individuals who think they are the only authorities on a particular topic. I surround myself with leaders who are more knowledgeable than I am in different areas and I value learning from them. When we are able to recognize our blind spots and seek out people who can complement us, we are leading.
3. LISTEN WITH CARE
These are some ways to be an authentic listener:
- Stay quiet until the other person is finished presenting their ideas and then ask empowering questions to move the project to the next level
- Validate the suggestions being shared with enthusiasm
- Make others feel they are really being listened to by giving them your full attention
- Summarize the points made and offer honest feedback
4. IDENTIFY COMMON PURPOSE
The key to collaborating is clarifying the direction and responsibilities each person needs to take. When roles are identified and individuals understand what is expected, a project will more likely be successful. Authentic leaders ask their teams or partners: “What are your thoughts?” and “What else would you add to make our project more robust?”
5. SHARE THE LOAD
Anytime we work with others, it is empowering to draw on each person’s strengths and talents. When the workload is divided up based on what each leader feels best about contributing, a great balance and an innovative outcome prevails. To cultivate a sharing experience:
- Set-up check-in times
- Be complementary of one another’s work, without being inauthentic
- If one person ends up with too much of the project, be open to reallocation of assignments
- Always be truthful and transparent-if something isn’t working, speak up
How do you lead authentically? How do others know you are an authentic leader?