3 Must-Have Qualities of Authentic Leadership

What are the true qualities of authentic leadership?

A few months back, I was observing a senior leader run a meeting. He was charming, personable, and the meeting was full of energy and positivity.  After the meeting I asked him, “why didn’t you mention that the project is no longer funded? Don’t they have a right to know?”

His response was alarming. He said “that’s actually their problem. They’ll find out soon enough”.

Wow. That proves charm and personality do not always reflect character or authenticity. The employees that were at that meeting trusted that leader. They believed their jobs were secure, but they deserved to know the truth.

This particular leader was more interested in having them like him in the moment. And for that gratification, he completely ignored their needs.

It simply proves that, yes, we can be charming and agile leaders, and we can incorporate six sigma black belt strategies. But that’s not where real leadership begins. Leadership begins when we integrate those traditional systems with internal higher awareness. It begins when we incorporate dynamic patterns of authenticity.

What are the qualities of authentic leadership?

But how do you take authenticity and make it a tool, a skill, or something you can implement into your daily interactions as a leader?

To be authentic in leadership, you’ll want to make sure you have:


Integrity is one of the qualities of authentic leadership. To achieve integrity, you need to:

  • Remove all unconscious selfish motives. It’s easy to lose sight of our motives. We all have an agenda. Authenticity requires us to leave it at the door and that requires conscious thought. In my example above, the leader’s agenda was that people like him. It wasn’t an outright plan. It was floating in his subconscious and he acted accordingly.
  • Avoid double binds – situations where the other person can’t win no matter what they do. When you tell the team to increase the marketing but not spend any money. Or, add staff but don’t increase payroll. A double bind is a no-win situation. Authenticity as a leader requires that you avoid this.
  • Admit that you can be wrong. I often ask executives to say those words out loud when starting the communication. It immediately creates an environment for collaboration. You’re no longer dictating how things should be done, you’re stating that you have a plan, but… you could be wrong.
  • Establish ethical boundaries and provide ‘clarity’ on what those boundaries are. As a leader, you should actively reflect on where your lines in the sand are drawn. And stick to it.

A foundation of trust

The next authentic leadership quality is trust. The foundation of trust is to:

  • Recognize that the task you are working on relies on an interdependence. It’s not a one man show. Let your team know you trust them to accomplish their goals. Stick with that trust until they prove you can’t.
  • Have an awareness of your own (and others’) psychological triggers. Noticing what triggers others makes you a more effective leader. Your team will build trust by knowing that you care.
  • Be willing to ask for help. Leaders easily fall into the trap of going it alone. It’s not necessary. Asking for help is a sign of strength… and authenticity.

Self-awareness – improve your EQ

Improving self-awareness and emotional intelligent (EQ) is the other important trait of an authentic leader.

  • Respond instead of react. Become aware of your own emotional triggers. Remove yourself from the situation before reacting.
  • Acknowledge that position power exists and have humility. It’s easy to intimidate subordinates without even trying. The mere title and position can lead to this.
  • Get your overthinking under control. Executives are thinkers. Sometimes to a fault. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going on in our own head and miss the needs of the team.
  • Recognize your own insecurity. Even the highest level pros have insecurity. In fact, some of the most successful people I’ve worked with have the most insecurity. Self-awareness on this level will allow you to show up in an authentic way.

Authenticity is more than simply a buzzword. It’s an important aspect of your day as a leader.

Want more strategies to improve yourself? Start with your LinkedIn profile and how you’re showing up authentically there.

If you would like to have a private executive coaching conversation, please schedule an appointment with me here.


Share your thoughts: