Five Roads To Authentic Leadership

It can sometimes be difficult assessing whether a leader is being totally real with us. The words coming out of their mouth might sound like they know what they are talking about and their tone seems authoritative. Yet there is something about them that doesn’t add up. We are feeling disconnected from a conversation and we don’t know why. I worked with a woman who was confusing to read. On one hand she was a successful business developer and often asked me to help her with projects. And in another way she would challenge my every decision and action. It was impossible to know what she was really thinking.

Have you ever felt that way about a colleague or boss? Were you frustrated that you weren’t completely clear on where they stood or what their true intentions were?

Here are five roads to authentic leadership:


You probably have been in conversations or meetings where the information being shared seemed confusing. Facts and directives were being spoken but in a puzzling manner. When leaders aren’t clear in what they have to say they are not being authentic. In fact people often misread those words. So the first road to travel down towards authenticity is stating your message with crystal clear clarity. To be our clearest it can sometimes be helpful to:

  • Write something out before presenting your points.
  • Put the ideas in order that makes sense.
  • Practice out loud what you want to say because the written word can often be uncomfortable to say.


To develop authenticity leaders must be as open as possible by including all the information necessary for the person they are working with. When leaders leave out critical facts team members often deliver incorrect conclusions. Additionally, when we lead with incomplete data we deplete our credibility. Transparency is a key authentic leadership trait.


In the situation I mentioned earlier, the woman never wanted to listen to my questions or my concerns. Projects had to be done her way, never willing to address potential obstacles. Traveling down this road only led me to lose respect for her and her authenticity. When leaders strategically listen:

  • They develop rapport with colleagues and team members.
  • They create more impactful end results.
  • They empower others to grow and cultivate confidence.
  • They become authentic leaders.


Being honest even if we are disclosing unpopular viewpoints or information is what authentic leaders do. When people we partner with aren’t truthful in how they feel or what they are honestly thinking, it is highly unlikely a meaningful work relationship will occur. It can also lead to confusing deliverables and a great deal of conflict. I have witnessed senior leaders bickering over outcomes because truthful information and ideas were never disclosed.


The final road to journey down for authentic leadership is leading with our hearts. Leaders who take into consideration how team members feel and can see challenges through another person’s perspective are empathetic leaders. They don’t feel sorry for their colleagues but rather try to understand why they may be acting in a certain way. When leaders lean into what is important to other people, they will become authentic leaders.

What others roads do you travel to be an authentic leader?  

3 thoughts on “Five Roads To Authentic Leadership

  1. I am always interested in learning more about authentic leadership and your article provides some great insight! I really appreciated how you reminded readers that empathy is not feeling sorry for others, it is feeling their sorrow. When it comes down to one of the greatest leadership traits, I believe empathy ranks near the top.

  2. Empathy is so helpful for leaders to master as it is the basis for developing strong relationships and understanding what is important to others. When we are empathetic leaders, colleagues are more willing to approach us and share different opinions and perspectives. When all sides are considered there are more outstanding outcomes and solutions.

    Thanks LaRae for your additions!

  3. I worked for someone who always liked to say, “I’m being transparent here!” when his team felt that was anything but the case. I think that’s because your point about honesty was missing. He was being transparent… as much as he could be given the circumstances. When information came available, he shared it as soon as he could. Instead of presenting the bigger picture, he insisted on transparency when the more accurate statement was he was telling us all he could as fast as he could. He wanted us to be in the loop but some things were not yet set and sharing at this point would cause undue stress over things that may or may not happen. Authenticity and honesty with a side of vulnerability is always a strong combination.


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