Lead Like You Mean It: The Foundation of Authentic Leadership

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Have you ever noticed that some leaders are highly effective, while others seem to actually draw those around them backwards?

What is an Authentic Leader?

(Prefer Video?  Check out the 4 part video series on Authentic Leadership!)

Authentic Leaders are highly influential and impactful in the best ways. I define an authentic leader as one who desires to lead with a heart of service, with a spirit of curiosity, trust, and respect, and grows their leadership ability through personal growth and development. They aim to be genuine and direct in their leadership approach.

Authentic leadership is about leading from the inside out. It recognizes that a leader's greatest impact and influence come from acknowledging and respecting their humanity and the humanity of those they lead. Leaders who prioritize people, often referred to as practicing Servant Leadership or Heart-Centered Leadership, lay a strong foundation of trust, loyalty, and dedication among their teams. This foundation empowers them to guide their teams and companies boldly toward seemingly unattainable goals.

Who can be an authentic leader?

Leadership is not reserved only for those with a title – in fact, some who hold titles are not leaders at all! In my own life, my parents were impactful leaders in our family. I continued this tradition when I became a single parent, feeling the full responsibility of raising three humans.

Leadership is about having a heart and a desire to role model and lead others forward, whether in a family, a spiritual community, or a traditional organizational setting.

All authentic leaders share common qualities that create a strong personal foundation for their leadership. To learn more about what an authentic leader is NOT, please check out this video.

Qualities of a Strong Personal Foundation

In my hundreds of hours coaching leaders, I’ve observed common qualities in heart-centered leaders. As you read these qualities, consider where you fall on a scale from 1 (low or non-existent) to 10 (excelling):

  1.  Emotional Intelligence: High emotional intelligence indicates an understanding of emotions as indicators of internal states. These leaders use emotions to enhance understanding and make conscious choices, avoiding emotionally driven or reactionary decisions.
  2. Mindset (Positive) Intelligence: Authentic leaders understand that their thoughts lead to quality actions and behaviors. High positive intelligence involves empathy, exploration, innovation, navigation, and activation, steering clear of judgment, victimhood, procrastination, worry, or achievement-chasing.
  3. Self-accountability: A key quality is keeping one's word and maintaining high integrity towards oneself and others. Those lacking in self-accountability often promise more than they can deliver.
  4. Heart of Service: Influential leaders prioritize relationships and people. They maintain their health and wellness for maximum service to others, avoiding sacrificing personal well-being for profit or pleasing others at the expense of people and relationships.
  5. Flexibility: This includes a willingness to see situations through others' eyes, and understanding that one's perspectives are not absolute truths. Inflexible leaders often hold extreme, binary views, leaving little room for open, truthful conversations.
  6. High Level of Self-Awareness: Authentic leaders understand their behavior's impact on others and are open to acknowledging and adapting unhelpful behaviors. They maintain a spirit of learning and curiosity. Leaders with low self-awareness may exhibit fear-based behavior and unwillingness to consider different perspectives.

How did you do in your self-evaluation? If you've identified areas of strength and those needing work, congratulations! You are human and on the path to becoming a more authentic leader.

Strengthening These Qualities

One of the most effective ways to strengthen these qualities is through 1:1 leadership coaching. Coaching provides a safe, neutral environment for leaders to recognize, acknowledge, and gain new tools to strengthen their personal foundation.

Why is coaching so powerful? It offers an opportunity to identify gaps between the current state and desired outcomes, gain new awareness, and most importantly, evaluate and adapt strategies for continuous improvement.

Consider What’s Next

Based on what you’ve read, what action are you inspired to take today? Perhaps you’re ready to hire a leadership coach, or you’ve gained insight into a foundational quality to work on. Make your time reading this article count by taking one small step of action now!



Vicki Haddock is an author,  professional leadership coach, and inspirer of others to live their best thriving lives!  Ready to dive in deeper but not sure where to start?  Consider Registering for the Self-Checkin that Vicki hosts quarterly or grabbing a copy of her book Confidence Unchained!


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