The 7 Key Qualities of Authentic Business Leadership
What is Authentic Business Leadership?
Authentic leadership is about leading from the inside out. It's about recognizing that a leader's greatest impact and influence comes from acknowledging and respecting their own humanity and the humanity of those they lead.
Leaders who prioritize people and lead with a heart of service, often referred to as Servant Leadership or Heart-Centered Leadership, lay a strong foundation of trust, loyalty, and dedication among their teams. This foundation empowers them to boldly guide their teams and companies to achieve goals that might seem unattainable.
Today our nation is facing a crisis in leadership that leaves many feeling burned out, out of balance, overwhelmed, and filled with self-doubt.
To counteract this trend now more than ever we need leadership development that creates Heart-Centered Authentic Leaders. I’ve been developing leaders for twenty years inside the corporate world (as a business manager) and as a Leadership Coach. I’ve seen a complete transformation happen when an individual chooses to embody the qualities presented here.
The core desires of 99% of the leaders I coach are driven by a desire to make a positive impact on the people around them and the world. Let’s look at how a leader can dial up their influence and impact by embracing authentic leadership qualities.
Myths that hinder authentic leadership
To fully embrace authentic leadership, we must dispel two prevalent myths:
1. Work/Life Separation
I've never met a leader who doesn't take themselves home to their family at the end of the workday. Likewise, I've never met an employee who doesn't contribute to earning a paycheck. Insisting on separating and compartmentalizing these aspects of life can lead to feelings of guilt, scarcity, and self-judgment.
Instead, consider integrating work and life in a holistic way, recognizing that you are a human being who goes to work and returns home at the end of the day. This shift in perspective allows for harmony rather than resistance. Authentic leaders see themselves and their employees as whole people, not just cogs in a machine.
2. Where does your value come from?
Another common myth is that our value is determined by our work, paycheck size, and our next promotion. Our culture ingrains these beliefs in us. Authentic leaders, however, operate from a perspective that values humanity over career advancement. They don't let the size of their paycheck or the promise of a promotion dictate their behavior; instead, their actions are driven by a people-first approach.
Characteristics of an Authentic Business Leader
Everyone knows there are good people to work for and there are those that we never want to work for again. I’ve had my own experiences with a wide range of people who held a leadership title. Some had earned it and some had gained it in another way! Some of the worst “leaders” I worked for did become my greatest teachers of what not to do!
Strong Personal Foundation
Effective leadership starts with the personal development and strong foundation of the leader. How would you rate yourself on these qualities?
Emotional Intelligence includes an ever-increasing self-awareness, resiliency, and an ability to recognize and take care of one's own emotions while leading.
Self-accountability is also reliability. Does the leader do what they say they are going to do? A leader who is reliable and follows through on their commitments gains trust, loyalty, and influence.
Heart-Centered Approach. Authentic leadership involves leading with a heart of service, rather than merely adopting a servant leadership style. Authentic leaders continually ask themselves: "How can I best serve?" – be it the business, team, employees, or customers impacted by their work.
Flexibility. Effective leaders listen, adapt, and relinquish attachments to their perspectives in favor of being open to others' viewpoints.
These four qualities are vital for a leader to develop a strong personal foundation. Their ability to lead will be in direct correlation to the strength of their foundation.
Six Authentic Leadership Qualities
An authentic business leader builds the following six qualities on top of their strong personal foundation:
- Vision: A leader's ability to paint a vision that others can embrace and envision themselves as part of is essential. An advanced leadership quality involves not only creating a clear vision but also strengthening it through collaboration.
- Values: Clear values act as a guiding compass for all members of an organization regarding how to create and implement a vision. The clearer the values and their priority, the easier it is to make timely, value-aligned decisions.
- Communication: Authentic leaders practice respectful, open communication, addressing any necessary issues with care and respect. Effective communication is both a learnable skill and a product of self-awareness regarding personal fears, doubts, and communication obstacles.
- Accountability and Delegation: These qualities are action-oriented. Accountability involves setting clear expectations and timelines, while delegation means enlisting others' help with clarity, education, transition, and follow-up. Authentic leaders recognize that they can't do everything alone, nor should they.
- Mindset and Culture: Culture reflects the collective mindset of a team or organization. An empowering mindset propels success, while a negative mindset can lead to a troubled work environment. Leaders should encourage innovative, creative, and inspired thinking over self-doubt and criticism.
- Balance: Balance takes many forms, such as balancing creative and analytical thinking, work and reflection, and personal and work hours. Neglecting balance can lead to burnout, overwhelm, and diminishing returns.
What’s Next: How to develop authentic leadership qualities
As you reflect on the seven qualities of an authentic business leader, consider who in your experience embodies these traits and who falls short. Then turn that question inward. Take a moment to rate yourself from 1 (missing) to 10 (masterful) on each quality. Consider asking a trusted peer or mentor to rate you as well. Then ask yourself "How could I group my authentic leadership qualities by just 1%?" Focusing on 1% of growth every day keeps us out of overwhelm by trying to be perfect and cultivates a steady path of growth.
Would you like to keep yourself accountable for consistent growth? Join my next group quarterly leadership check-in. Just 90 intentional minutes per quarter helps you stay focused and intentional!
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