Helping leaders build their leadership vision and style is not about creating carbon copies of a particular leadership model. Rather, leaders must discover for themselves the kind of leader they want to be. They must look inward to determine what makes them act a certain way or present a particular persona.
Our leadership style is more than a letter on an assessment, and it can take time to evolve. It can even keep changing as we explore new and different opportunities. The key to our leadership success and influence is remaining authentic — staying true to our inner leadership vision. When we lead authentically, we have a calmness and confidence that everyone around us can feel.
One mid-level leader I coached was paralyzed in her career and felt that she could not interact with customers the same way her boss did. She tried to emulate his personality and behavior, but it only made her more frustrated. Her confidence dropped, which negatively impacted every aspect of her job. She was exceptional but couldn’t see her true gifts.
When leaders put on artificial masks that reflect the actions of a supervisor or colleague, they often stumble. So instead, the goal for all leaders, regardless of the stage of their career, is to be true to their leadership style. Let’s look at seven strategies to showcase your authentic leadership.
1. Identify Your Unique Strengths and Talents
An empowering first step in understanding your authentic leadership is to take a deep dive into the areas where you excel. Do you know your true gifts and talents?
One way to recognize your strengths is by observing what other people ask you for help with. When co-workers and leaders reach out for your opinions and input, it is because you have expertise and valuable experience.
Another method you can use to hone in on your talents is reflecting on what skills seem to come more naturally to you. Think about the parts of your job that bring a smile to your face and energize you.
2. Compile a List of Your Core Values
An important element of authenticity is knowing what you value most. Having self-awareness of what drives your actions and decisions is key. For example, although some projects involve connecting with team members, some leaders are more successful when they initially focus on individual tasks.
Another example may involve the amount of risk-taking you are comfortable with, and you will be a more authentic leader if your career aligns with how you value risk-taker.
3. Ask Colleagues or Your Boss for Their Perspectives
In locating your authentic self, it can be eye-opening to ask a trustworthy colleague or boss how you come across. Find out if there are areas where they think you can grow. You can integrate or omit their insights from your leadership brand. The important thing is to reach out to people you know will give you honest — but respectful — feedback.
4. Find Your Authentic Voice
Leaders who are authentic speak in their unique voice, which involves being aware of their words, facial expressions, volume, speed and tone. Some of us communicate in a louder voice, while others prefer a softer tone. There is no right or wrong; what’s important is using the volume that reflects your leadership style.
Just because you have a boss who speaks quickly doesn’t mean you have to change the rhythm of your speech. People will connect with you more deeply if they sense you are using an honest voice.
5. Create Powerful Stories to Share
Authentic leaders are great storytellers. When stories are genuine and impactful, they are easy to share. Your stories should show, not tell, the discoveries you’ve made and the important lessons you’ve learned, and they should be your stories, not someone else’s. Be creative, and have fun with how you share details and the climax of the story.
6. Develop Your Authentic Leadership Action Plan
As with all goal setting, when creating your leadership strategy, devise a clear set of objectives and steps to take to ensure that authenticity will be part of it. Decide how you will present yourself as an authentic leader, keeping in mind your strengths, core values, input from others, voice and storytelling. Focus on the areas that are most important to you, and don’t worry about what other leaders are doing. Just be you.
7. Reevaluate and Realign Periodically
As you grow in your career, check in to make certain your leadership is still authentic. We sometimes need to readjust our style to better meet the needs of our current work situations and client expectations. Realignment should always reflect your authentic leadership style.
With these seven strategies, you will be well on your way to authentic leadership.