3 Reflections on Becoming an Authentic Leader

Authentic leadership is one of the trendiest topics discussed in leadership because we live in an age where everyone seems – fake. Social media is not the cause, but it has amplified our culture and rubbed our noses in it. The United States has joined the “me-centered” leadership era, where everyone wants to become an influencer. That is not inherently bad, but we want to influence for the wrong reasons too many times.

I work in the not-for-profit sector, and I run a small coaching practice. I am blessed to work with some passionate, genuine, and authentic people every day. These leaders are genuinely “authentic” because their motives are pure; they have the right competency to succeed in their field and operate within their gifted areas. There are several excellent books on this topic, but I want to dissect these three quickly.

1. Their Motives are Pure. This is the most critical piece of being an authentic leader. It feels almost impossible to connect with clients in a culture of fake news and doctored up profiles. The most successful authentic leaders always lead from a place of service and have their client’s genuine interests at heart. A great book on this topic is Patrick Lencioni’s “The Motive.” The non-profit and church sector even struggle with this. It becomes too easy to compromise marketing strategies to attract and retain donors! Even some pastors start to abuse the pulpit to become social media influencers! Motives matter! I encourage you to ask yourself, “WHY do I want to influence, and what do I plan to do with it once I obtain it?” Develop your brand and leadership from a place of trust, or you will eventually fail.

2.  They Are Competent. Nobody wants to hire or follow an incompetent leader. Competency seems to be a no-brainer, but I have worked with many people who have gained a position or influence early on, and it hurt them and their organization. Competency is not only proven by experience and education. Peer reviews are one place competency is found today. Clients learned that education and experience do not always equal competency (or a good fit). Think about it, when you hire someone to do a job, or visit a new restaurant, or buy something online, you probably go straight to the review section. I do this all the time! We give more trust as consumers when our peers leave a review (even though we do not know them!). When I’m raising funds, even in the non-profit sector, I approach people with whom I established trust! People want to know they can trust you before hiring you, buying your product, or giving to your non-profit.

3. Operate Within Your Gifts. This is the area that may seem odd or even overlooked. This is different from competency. Some people are trained and experienced in an area, but they may lack natural ability or conviction. They can do the task or service you are looking for, but they lack a particular element to lead well. This happens all the time in the corporate world. Let’s say I have the experience and education to get a specific job. I get hired, but I feel burnt out all the time. When I work and lead outside of my gifts, it usually leads to burnout and frustration. If you are in a position where this is happening, you are probably not operating within your natural gifts. This is one reason I continue to coach and work in the non-profit sector. I have a genuine love to see others succeed!

There is much more to authentic leadership, but people LOVE what they do when all three of these areas are fulfilled. They are positioned to be authentic all the time because they are operating from a place of conviction. They have the tools, talent, and opportunity to lead from a place of who they are. Authentic leaders do not have to fake their motives, competency, or their gifts. They can be “real” because it is who they are, and it allows room for real growth to happen. Please do not “fake it until you make it.” Find the right place for you, and you will flourish.