Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership 

Would you tell the truth to your competitors? Why or why not?

Honesty is a value that many leaders aspire to embrace, and if that were true of you, how would you answer this question?


Must you tell the truth in every situation, or is it important to consider and accommodate the needs of different constituencies, audiences and stakeholders such as General Counsel and CFO, Chairman of the Board, investors, operations managers across the country, competitors, employees, customers, intimates, children, spouse?

Different audiences within an organization have different capabilities, functions and needs. When addressing any situation, therefore, start with the end and decide how to deal with each constituency in terms of goals, objectives and personal styles. Each audience requires a specific meaning that is concrete and actionable, not generalities or ‘fairy dust.’

In addition to being a genuine and unique individual, an authentic leader has a clear and well-defined moral compass based on a time-tested standard for identifying key values and principles, i.e., the 10 Commandments.

The values in your moral compass provide a benchmark against which important decisions can be tested. Some universally recognized values are Integrity, fairness, honesty, openness, and trustworthiness. Those that are most dear to you may not be solidified until they are tested under pressure.

To “know thy self,” requires introspection and honesty about your adherence to each of your primary values. Willingness and ability to look at your blind spots can be difficult and painful and denial can be a great hurdle to becoming self-aware.

Ask yourself: Who are you when no one is looking? Do your words and actions match? Do you revisit your priorities and values periodically to examine and integrate new insights and experiences? Are you flexible enough to adapt to the demands of a changing situation?

Authentic leadership within an organization inspires people and empowers individuals to commit to shared goals and to take risks. However, this requires consistent communication by leadership of shared values and commonly agreed principles, matched by an alignment of actions over time. Trust will be earned and employees can add deep value to everyone they deal with. The result? Outstanding performances.

To clarify the primary values of your own character, engage in an organized process for determining and memorializing in writing, those that you hold dear, against which you will measure your actions as an authentic leader in your organization.

As an authentic leader, you will make decisions in the best interests of the organization, not your own self-interest.

A Clarifying Model

  • Start with the end in mind; long-term and short-term
  • Segment the issues.
  • Write down the values.
  • Test their validity.
  • Construct a system to monitor congruence between values and actions.
  • Apply consequences for accountability; positive and negative.
  • Share this model with a few trusted colleagues.