Behind every successful organisation is a strong and authentic leader or leadership team, making an impact on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. The impact you make and the perception others form of you is based on a wide range of factors but this article will focus particularly on how authentic leadership can affect your overall impact.
Authentic leadership goes beyond diversity in all walks of life; from religion and ethnicity to sexual orientation and disability. It brings a unique blend of talents, gifts, values and professional competence to an organisation.
While authenticity might initially seem like a nice-to-have, research conducted by the Leadership Circle Profile* shows that authenticity is highly positively correlated with effective leadership. Being your real self all the time means increased leadership effectiveness and making a greater impact, leading to better business performance.
When you are your true self in business you are not masked by organisational politics, trying to look good or expressing a desire to win approval.
So, how do you know what makes you real? Firstly when defining your own authenticity, it’s important to understand what your core values are.
By delving deeper into understanding what your values are, what motivates and drives you and where you are selling yourself short, you will gain a clearer understanding of your USP and how to leverage the capabilities of those around you – whether you work for yourself or for someone else.
As a starter for ten, here’s a simple exercise to help you connect to your core values. Consider the following:
- What do you value the most?
List your values out – what’s non negotiable for you? It might be honesty, it might be doing your best, and it might be magic and sparkle – what unique combination of values makes you up?
- Which of these are critical to you?
Imagine that each of your values is a sandbag in a hot air balloon, the balloon is losing height and you need to lose a value – which one will you let go of first? And which one after that? Continue this process to determine which of your values are absolutely vital to you.
- Where do you compromise your values?
Think about where you honour your values and where you let them slide. How do your values fit with the values in the organisation where you work?
So, once you’re clear about your values, how can you transfer these into making the most positive impact possible and achieving excellent organisational results? There are two very clear ways to look at it. Making an authentic impact is all about acting with integrity and possessing courageous authenticity.
Acting with integrity means consistently aligning your actions with your values in meetings, with your team, with stakeholders and with clients. Think about how easy that is for you; how do you resolve conflicts or tensions between your own values and those of your organisation? For example, if your organisation makes a decision that conflicts with your own values, do you speak up or go along with it?
Courageous authenticity is not being afraid to do the right thing, say things in meetings even when they are potentially contentious. How willing are you to do that? How confident do you feel to take a stand, bring up issues that others might not and share personal opinions and feelings?
This is all about making an impact consciously and knowing how your internal values and external behaviour will be perceived. Knowing the impact you want to have is important so, keeping in mind your values, ask yourself the following:
What is your current impact?
How do you achieve that?
What do you want your impact to be?
What’s going to make the difference to get you there?
Having read this article, you may feel that you are already authentic, clear about your values and making a positive impact because of them. But it may well be an aspect of your leadership where you’d like to see some changes. Arguably, working to be as authentic as possible can be intense – but investing in this aspect of your leadership development is time well spent.
Take it further
To get the maximum benefit from any changes you make, you need to focus on moving towards the competence you want to demonstrate and starting to dismantle the beliefs and associated behaviours that are holding you back.
About Kirsty Baker
Kirsty Baker is founder of The Firefly Group, which works with leaders and leadership teams across UK public, private and not-for-profit sectors to enable them to strengthen their leadership development and deepen their impact. Kirsty has a proven track record of helping individuals and organisations achieve long-term change through her work.
“At Firefly we work with leaders using the Leadership Circle Profile tool, to help you better understand your beliefs, values and associated behaviours; what you want to keep and what you want to change; how to be authentic and how to deepen your leadership impact.”