Modern leadership books seem to be obsessed with authenticity. We’re told to be vulnerable, practice transparent communicate, become more self-aware, and bring our genuine selves to the workplace. All these steps can stretch our comfort zones, and we may begin to wonder if the effort is worth it. Do people really respond to authentic leadership? Does the workplace actually experience benefits from leaders being transparent and candid?
In truth, authentic leadership is more than a trend or a buzzword. It is a highly effective approach to leading a team. When you make a concerted effort to be candid, transparent, and a bit vulnerable, you open the door for your team members to do the same. A leader’s actions have the power to influence workplace culture and empower both individuals and teams.
Let’s talk about 5 positive side effects that result from authentic leadership.
…Encourages Open Communication
Open, honest communication can only be achieved in environments where trust has been established. When leaders are authentic, they tend to cultivate trust. Their team gets to know and understand them as a person—flaws and all. It’s much easier to talk to someone you can relate to than a distant leader who tends to hold their employees at arm’s length.
It’s also easier to deliver feedback to someone who is candid and approachable. If a leader is standoffish or detached, employees may be nervous about presenting their suggestions or grievances.
An authentic leader is a vulnerable leader. They dare to recognize their shortcomings (perhaps speaking up during a meeting to ask clarifying questions) and they own up to their mistakes. When a workplace acknowledges that people aren’t perfect, that’s powerful. Employees are free to ask questions, request help or additional resources, and be honest about their abilities (“I actually don’t know how to run that particular report. Could someone train me in?”).
Leading by example, an authentic leader demonstrates that lacking knowledge or making a mistake is permissible, as long as we’re willing to learn, grow, and try again.
…Keeps Your Team Engaged
Have you ever been in a situation where people were nervous to speak up, afraid their team leader would think less of them? When imperfection is the norm (as discussed in point two), this fear tends to evaporate. Team members are less afraid to present their ideas or provide feedback because they feel safe and supported to do so. This amplifies engagement, keeps ideas flowing, and promotes out-of-the-box thinking.
…Fosters an Environment of Transparency
When working with an inauthentic leader, it’s difficult to be transparent. When they ask how you’re doing, you’ll probably say, “Fine” (even if you aren’t). When you make a mistake, you might panic and rush to cover it up. If you’re in need of a mental health day, you might make up an excuse to take time off work, rather than admit you’re not 100 percent fine, 100 percent of the time.
On the other hand, authentic leadership encourages transparency. People are free to bring their whole selves to the workplace. They don’t have to pretend to be happy, healthy, and worry-free all the time. AND, they don’t have to pretend to agree with every decision that’s made; instead, they can voice their true opinions, knowing their leader will listen and respect their point of view.
…Promotes Job Satisfaction and Happiness
Leaders have the power to uplift employees and improve job satisfaction. By encouraging an environment of authenticity, people feel they have permission to bring all facets of themselves to the workplace. Harvard Business Review found that, “being true to one’s self empowers individuals in the workplace, facilitating feelings of control and mastery, which then lead to greater job satisfaction and happiness.” Empowering individuals to be their authentic selves at work is powerful.
When you lead with authenticity, you empower others to bring their true (flawed) selves to the workplace. When people are allowed to admit mistakes or shortcomings, be themselves, and express their genuine perspectives, the workplace becomes a more open and transparent place, conducive to self-expression and continued learning. And those are traits of a thriving workplace.