How to succeed as an Authentic Leader

Posted on June 30, 2015 by Aidan

10 do’s and don’ts for leadership success

by Arjen van BerkumLeadership: the never ending journey

Do you know who you are, what you believe and why you believe it? Are you able to be yourself in any given situation? Recently I read an article that contained a nice comparison for leaders that are facing their greatest challenge, namely integrating their personal and work lives:

Think of your life as a house. Can you knock down the walls between the rooms and be the same person in each of them?”

It takes a lot of courage to be a visionary, to walk your talk every step of the way. Especially when you still need to build your follower base. How can you find the inspiration to make an impact in the world as an authentic leader? Don’t strive to achieve success in tangible performances that are recognised in the external world. Strive for significance. Make a difference with your contribution: constantly build legacies by adding deep value to everyone you deal with. This is what makes good performers great leaders. Therefore self-awareness is a vital part of successful leadership.

Here are some principles that evolved from the values that I have ranked during my leadership journey.

  1. Never be afraid to lose your job.
    (Or don’t let your fear determine your next steps in business) First of all, if you are constantly scared to lose your job, you are not convinced of your own vision and capacities. In that case, leadership might not be the role that suits you to begin with. Second – if you put the safety of your own job first, you will never be successful as a leader. The choices you make should depend on what’s best for the business and for the people working in it.
  2. A good personal reputation is your most valuable possession. Keep it or fix it.
    Be self-confident and well organised, smile a lot, be friendly and remain professional in every circumstance. This will bring you a long way toward establishing strong working relationships. To manage this, communication skills and an innovative mind-set are indispensable in your toolbox.
  3. Being honest is better than being nice. Build trust.
    Leadership is not about being popular, but about building trust. As a leader with contradictive behaviour that regularly breaks promises, you will lose followers. People do not want to follow a leader they cannot trust to fulfil their guarantees. Once trust is lost, it is nearly impossible to gain back. So don’t play games and don’t work with hidden agendas. The benefits in the short run will cost you loyalty in the long run.
  4. You don’t know everything yourself. That’s okay. Manage your weaknesses.
    Acknowledge that you cannot be talented in all areas. So you need to build your support team and hire talents. Leaders never succeed on their own, they need other people that support and guide them with knowledge and experience.
  5. Be open for other people’s opinion, suggestions and vision.
    This is a prerequisite. Do you have a thick skin? There is no sugar coating in the business world. If you are offered feedback, accept criticism instead of denying the truths in it.
  6. Helping someone will never make things worse. Make an effort.
    Motivate the people around you. A person that believes in himself or herself, is more likely to work hard to live up to the hype you are creating. Be a mentor for those you see a lot of potential in, be a coach for the people who need to make things happen in the business and be a friend for peers.
  7. Don’t just strive for the success, but for the end goal.
    Success is temporarily. It is the significance of what you do that counts, not the success measured by the outside world’s parameters that you gained through a single ‘touchdown’.
  8. Sharing is the new gaining. Share something every day.
    Knowledge, results, positive feedback or even a ride. The smallest things can deliver a valuable experience to someone. This is a great way to establish relationships and collaboration.
  9. Talk to people not about people. Lead from the heart.
    Business is about people. If you have something to say, say it directly to the person involved. Don’t be afraid to show humanity and vulnerability. This will decrease the emotional distance between you and your (future) followers. There’s a big chance that scepticism will slowly change into belief.
  10. Give others the space they need.
    Give employees space to do their work, to develop or to test a strategy they believe in. Facilitate their professional needs. Empower them to peak in their performance and to lead in their area of expertise.

So I ask again, do you know the person you see in your mirror every day and his or her core believes? Believes are not something you decide on overnight or set your mind to. Authentic leadership requires a journey that writes your personal story. It started from the moment you decided you had a vision that you want to share with the world. Hopefully you realise that you will be on a never ending journey that is continuously steering and shaping your future leadership. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t forget to enjoy it along the way! Discover not only what you believe, but – more important – why you believe it. Make a strong connection between your personal values and your behaviour. Together this will outline the principles you need to live by, so you can be a true leader to yourself and others. Always.

Original of this GREAT Article was written by Arjen van Berkum