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Strategies to Develop Your Authentic Leadership Style

Strategies to Develop Your Authentic Leadership Style

“Successful leadership takes conscious development and requires being true to your life story.”

– Harvard Professor, Bill George

Thanks in large part to the rise of social media, so much of our lives is heavily documented. From workplace celebrations to family vacations, we willingly share so much of our lives with friends, family and even strangers. With so much of our lives on display, it’s no wonder we only want to share the most polished version of ourselves.

But a decade after the rise of mainstream social media, many of us are yearning for more authenticity. In our personal lives, we see it when young people move away from the city and into bucolic rural areas to live “the simple life.”  In the workplace, we see the appeal for authenticity when team members gravitate toward leaders who are transparent and trustworthy.

As a result, it’s no surprise that companies are now emphasizing authentic leadership and rethinking how managers leverage their leadership styles. Properly motivated company leadership works to inspire those around them through their own actions.

What Makes an Authentic Leader?

Authentic leaders are sincere, self-aware and unafraid to show their true colors – including their limitations, strengths and weaknesses. They focus on guiding the organization in the right direction instead of a personal desire for money and power. They take responsibility and they expect team members to do the same.

Authenticity in leadership is demonstrated through transparency and a willingness to discuss failures, which they use as a teaching moment. They encourage open communication and they do not hesitate to point out team members when they display unacceptable behavior.

Employees respect authentic leaders because they have the integrity to keep private conversations confidential. People know what to expect from authentic leaders because their behavior is consistent, no matter who they are talking to. Authentic leaders display their ability to use empathy and understanding, putting themselves in other people’s shoes when they listen to their opinions. They are skilled at motivating and engaging individuals toward a clear vision.

Authentic Leadership Styles

There is no question that leadership styles arise from the leader’s personality. Psychologist Daniel Goleman, famous for laying out the components of emotional intelligence, describes several different leadership styles. Each may be appropriate in different situations. However, a more empathetic leadership style is more likely to build enduring relationships with employees.

Visionary Leadership: Visionary leaders are good at motivating people toward an idea. They are typically self-confident and have a very strong, positive impact on the company culture.

Affiliative Leadership: Affiliate leaders focus on people. This is a positive leadership style that creates harmony within the organization by building emotional bonds between co-workers and management.

Democratic Leadership: Democratic leaders ask team members for their opinions. This style enriches the organization by soliciting valuable ideas and building communication between individuals. Employees who have democratic management are likely to buy into company goals and cooperate with leadership.

Coaching Leadership: Leaders who act as a coach have strong self-awareness and empathy toward others. They develop future leaders by allowing teams to try new things while standing by to lend a hand.

Pacesetting Leadership: A pacesetting leader is driven to achieve. They set high performance standards and they expect quick results. This style can have a negative effect on the climate of the company.

Commanding Leadership: The commanding leader has a “do what I say” attitude and is driven toward achievement. This leadership style can hurt the organization’s culture — but may be necessary in a crisis.

Become an Authentic Leader

Authentic leaders hold true to their core values, but are also well aware that other people may have different motivations, viewpoints and goals. Through open communication, an authentic leader can involve team members and move them toward the vision of the organization. Authentic leaders take great care in setting realistic goals their team can live with.

Here are some strategies to become a more authentic leader:

  • Listen Actively

Great leaders practice effective communication through active listening and considering other people’s opinions.  This consideration sets a strong foundation for an effective relationship with employees.

  • Be Reliable:

Develop a principled attitude and stand by workplace decisions to show that you are reliable. Unless there is a compelling reason to change course, stick with previous decisions, even if they are unpopular.

  • Deliver Constructive Feedback

Make sure your feedback is constructive and delivered diplomatically. Meet in person and frame your messages as a way to help the other person improve, instead of criticizing them.

  • Count on Others

Show team members you respect them by delegating and handing them control. Rely on your team’s skills and knowledge to come up with the right solutions.

Moving Toward Authentic Leadership

At True Colors, we help organizations create a culture of success where every employee feels understood and empowered. True Colors drives positive change in organizations around the world by encouraging leaders and staff to embrace individual personality differences. We do this by using personality tests based on proven temperament theory to teach leaders and co-workers personal awareness for improved communication, engagement, collaboration and productivity.

When you partner with True Colors, an experienced Master Trainer will evaluate your needs and set realistic, achievable goals. We help your organization thrive by implementing programs that meet challenges in leadership, team building and conflict. Our customized programs include online personality testing, consulting sessions, workshops, live events and keynote speaking engagements.

For additional information about True Colors International and what we have to offer, please visit or call 800-422-4686.