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Real leaders get real (part 1)

August 19, 2014

There’s all sorts of talk about being an “authentic leader” these days. So what does being an authentic leader actually mean? It may be one of those somewhat tough to quantify things that “you know when you see,” but there are some definite traits—confidence (without being cocky), resiliency, compassion, a sense of humor, and a baseline of positivity, among others—that all authentic leaders share.

They’re confident in terms of where they’re trying to go and what they are trying to do. They understand themselves. They have high ethical standards for themselves as well as for others. They think about how to take their people (and the organization as a whole) to the next level. They’re always looking to do things better, and make an impact in terms of one person at a time, or large groups at a time.

Authenticity is a big part of what makes leaders effective.

But when I talk about authentic leadership, and by that I mean actually being more real with your co-workers, some of the elements are not necessarily the things that up-and-coming leaders or high-powered execs usually talk about, especially in a corporate setting.

I’ll be the first to admit that most people don’t necessarily schedule meetings to talk about the things that matter to the heart. But often it’s the matters of the heart that define authentic leadership. I’ve found that the ability to deal with “touchy-feely” things that manypeople may not really be comfortable with is what separates the good leaders from the great ones—the truly authentic ones.

And one of the qualities that people don’t usually jump to talk about in the workplace is having compassion in the workplace, not only for the people whom you lead and work with, but also for yourself. In my opinion it’s critical. It’s a tough world and the best leaders are able to push and get the best out of themselves and the people they lead in a kind, compassionate and simply, a human way. At the end of the day we’re all people. We all make mistakes. And it’s the ability to make the most of our shared challenges as well as our successes that defines great leadership.

Authentic leaders are confident enough to care. And often ask themselves: “Why did that person do that?” or “What is that person trying to get?” with an open and compassionate mind rather than immediately jumping to negative conclusions.

The question you have to ask yourself is: How compassionate am I? And how has it made a difference in my leadership journey? Share your thoughts with us below.


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