Five Authentic Leadership Strategies

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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:


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.


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.


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


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?”


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?




8 thoughts on “Five Authentic Leadership Strategies

  1. Good advice for new leaders and those that have gotten lost in their title and the corporate machine along the journey of their career!

    You are one of the most authentic leaders I know and had the pleasure of seeing you in action through our collaboration on our upcoming book. I always appreciated how you modeled listening first, ensuring that the person who made the suggestion was heard, and asking questions to open new possibilities. In addition, an important part of being authentic is having opinions and not being a pushover. You also modeled sticking with it when it really mattered and letting go and allowing others to lead too.

    ~ Alli

  2. Terri, Just beautiful. Beautiful magic happens when several truly authentic leaders work together on a shared purpose. You offer some very practical advice here for teams to talk about. Thank you!

  3. Great point, Alli that being authentic doesn’t mean giving in to opinion just to move things along. Leaders need to know when to “hold them and when to fold them”, after doing some essential strategic listening and analyzing.

    I loved collaborating on our book project because of the respect and friendship we shared with one another. I am so excited about the book coming out shortly!

    Thanks always for your kind support!


  4. Teams are dynamic and that calls for authentic leadership from all of its members. When people can be open and truthful about their perspectives, more listening and more action will happen.

    I worked with a manager recently who was great at encouraging his team members to contribute to the vision and purpose of the projects. It really made a difference in the results.

    Thanks Karin!

  5. I love this list, Terri!

    Your authenticity is one of the strongest qualities things that comes out in you! I always enjoy your perspective and you’re not afraid to be confrontational when it’s appropriate because you are always listening to your inner voice that says, “Is this what is really going on?”

    Great list and a perfect one for all leaders to think about as they move through their day!

  6. Thanks LaRae for your words of support!

    I do value authenticity as one of the most critical steps in becoming a strong leader. When we know who we are and what we value, our internal compass will always point us in the right direction. I have found over the years, that when I sense someone is inauthentic and can’t be truthful, I am uncomfortable working with them.

    You too LaRae are one of the most authentic leaders I know and I appreciate our friendship and our collaborations!

  7. Great post Terri!

    I think fear, arrogance, and/or ignorance are the biggest stumbling blocks in leadership. Having power just magnifies these things and the result is more damage to a larger number of people.

    We can do our best to work with people like this and sometimes you can develop a good rapport. However, if we are dealing w/ people who have questionable character, that a different matter entirely and will be an uphill and perilous battle where you constantly have to be on guard.

    I generally choose to walk away when I find out someone is like this. Not always easy especially if you need the money to pay the bills, etc.

    Working with imperfect people is a given. I try to let people know that I’m on their side, and that I value honesty and direct communication. And I try to make this clear upfront so people know what to expect from me, and it’s not a surprise. (many people are too compliant and passive and honest and direct CAN be shocking to anyone who is used to dealing with ‘yes’ people)

    Love your insights and suggestions. Great post!

  8. I love your point Samantha-“I value honesty and direct communication. And I try to make this clear upfront so people know what to expect from me”! When we can be role models and show other leaders how to be authentic, we are truly leading.

    I do think that when people we partner with are dishonest or not transparent, it becomes very frustrating to work with them. We never know what to expect and we tend to walk on egg shells. Walking away is an option I will take too if my self-worth is compromised in any way.

    Thanks Samantha for your extraordinary insights into leadership and human behavior!

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