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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Terranova

Let’s Be Real – How to Develop an Authentic Leadership Style

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 As leadership evolves to meet the changing demands of today’s working world, the importance of authentic leadership cannot be overstated. Unlike conventional, results-driven leadership models, authentic leadership prioritizes genuine, transparent, and values-driven approaches to guiding others. Authentic leaders operate in alignment with their core beliefs, cultivating trust, fostering engagement, and nurturing creative thinking within their organizations. As we navigate the challenges of leadership, the contemporary organizational culture, and the leadership expectations of younger generations, the relevance of authentic leadership continues to grow. Modern leaders must understand what authentic leadership entails, why it matters more than ever, and challenge themselves to implement strategies that cultivate an authentic approach to leading others.  


What is Authentic Leadership and Why Does It Matter?

Authentic leadership centers on being true to oneself while effectively leading others. At its core, authenticity involves self-awareness, moral integrity, and a commitment to transparency. Authentic leaders lead with purpose, clarity, and empathy, inspiring their teams to reach new heights of success. In an era marked by rapid change and uncertainty, authentic leadership serves as a stabilizing force, fostering resilience and adaptability within organizations. Moreover, authenticity breeds authenticity, creating a culture where individuals feel empowered to be their true selves at work, thus unleashing their full potential.

At the end of the day, who we really are, what we value, and how we show up should be congruent for perceptions of leadership authenticity to thrive. While we often believe we know who we are and what we value, communicating this congruence to others in a consistent way can be tricky, especially in organizational environments where colleagues are alert to any sign of duplicity. Most leaders would say authentic leadership can be like walking a tightrope sometimes, where organizational conditions and suspicious minds conspire to undermine even the most genuine leadership efforts. So, what should a modern leader do to cultivate an authentic leadership style?

Strategies for Cultivating Authentic Leadership

👉🏼 Self-Reflection and Personal Growth

Self-reflection and personal growth are cornerstones of authentic leadership, empowering leaders to navigate challenges with integrity and empathy. This introspective journey involves examining values, strengths, and weaknesses, fostering a deeper understanding of oneself and others. Leaders can cultivate self-awareness through practices like journaling, seeking feedback, and engaging in ongoing learning opportunities. By committing to personal growth, leaders demonstrate humility and inspire others to pursue their own paths of development, fostering a culture of continuous improvement within the organization.


👉🏼 Building Trust Through Transparency

Building trust through transparency is essential for authentic leadership. Leaders should prioritize open, honest, and transparent communication with their team members, sharing relevant information, seeking input, and acknowledging mistakes openly. For instance, leaders can hold regular town hall meetings to discuss company updates and initiatives, encourage employees to ask questions and voice concerns, and publicly take responsibility for any missteps or errors. Additionally, leaders can foster transparency by providing clear and timely feedback, ensuring that employees feel valued and respected. By creating an environment of trust and psychological safety, leaders empower their teams to collaborate effectively, innovate freely, and achieve collective goals.


👉🏼 Leading with Purpose and Values

Leading with purpose and values is fundamental to authentic leadership. Effective leaders articulate a compelling vision that aligns with their organization's core values and mission. For example, a leader might organize regular meetings to discuss the organization's mission and values, ensuring that team members understand and connect with the overarching purpose. By consistently aligning actions with values, leaders demonstrate integrity and inspire trust among employees.

Moreover, purpose-driven leadership fosters a sense of belonging and commitment, motivating individuals to contribute their best efforts toward achieving shared goals. In practice, leaders can reinforce the organization's values through recognition programs, team-building activities, and storytelling that highlights examples of values in action. By leading with purpose and values, leaders cultivate a culture of engagement, resilience, and collective success within their teams and organizations.


👉🏼 Empowering Others and Fostering Inclusion

Authentic leaders empower individuals by recognizing and celebrating their unique talents and perspectives. They champion diversity, equity, and inclusion, actively seeking out diverse voices and perspectives to enrich decision-making processes and drive innovation. To that end, leaders can establish employee resource groups, mentorship programs, or diversity training initiatives to promote inclusivity and create a sense of belonging among team members. Additionally, authentic leaders foster a culture of trust and autonomy, empowering individuals to take ownership of their work and pursue creative solutions to challenges. By creating an environment where every voice is heard and valued, authentic leaders unleash the full potential of their teams, driving sustainable success and fostering a culture of excellence.

Red Flags for Inauthentic Leadership (and How to Address Them)

Although it’s important to have solid strategies to cultivate authentic leadership, it’s also important to recognizing the warning signs of inauthenticity for any leader who cares about maintaining trust, integrity, and organizational effectiveness. Inauthentic leadership can manifest in various forms, indicating a disconnect between a leader's professed values and their actual behavior. By being vigilant and attuned to these indicators, individuals can identify and address instances of inauthentic leadership, fostering a culture of authenticity, accountability, and ethical conduct within their organizations.


🚩 Lack of Transparency and Integrity

Lack of transparency and integrity in leadership can have profound repercussions on organizational culture and performance. When leaders engage in secrecy, dishonesty, or moral ambiguity, they erode trust and credibility, fostering disengagement and undermining employee morale. Recognizing and addressing signs of inauthenticity in a colleague is essential to preserving organizational integrity. Encouraging open dialogue and fostering a culture of accountability can help address lapses in transparency and integrity. Emphasizing the importance of honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior as non-negotiable qualities in leadership roles sets clear expectations for behavior and reinforces the organization's values.


🚩 Discrepancy Between Words and Actions

When inauthentic leaders fail to align their actions with their stated values, trust and integrity suffer within the organization. This inconsistency not only undermines credibility but also damages the overall culture of authenticity. It is imperative to address these discrepancies to maintain trust and foster an environment where authenticity thrives. Offering constructive feedback to colleagues can assist them in recognizing the disparity between their words and deeds, facilitating their growth as genuine leaders. Encouraging them to lead by example and demonstrating consistency and integrity in their actions reinforces the importance of authenticity in leadership. It's essential to emphasize that authenticity and congruence in leadership behavior are not just lofty ideals but essential elements for building trust, inspiring confidence, and nurturing positive relationships within the team and organization.


🚩 Resistance to Feedback and Growth

Leaders who refuse to recognize their weaknesses or grow from errors impede both personal and organizational advancement. If you notice defensive or close-minded behavior in a coworker, provide them with guidance and motivation to engage in self-reflection and ongoing development. Stressing the importance of humility, vulnerability, and a mindset open to growth is crucial for fostering authentic leadership. Encouraging leaders to embrace these qualities cultivates an environment where learning and improvement are valued, ultimately driving both individual and collective success.



Authentic leadership is not just a desirable trait; it is a fundamental requirement of leaders in today's professional world. By embracing authenticity, leaders can foster trust, engagement, and innovation within their organizations, driving sustainable success in the long term. As we look to the future of leadership, let us prioritize authenticity as one of the guiding principles that empowers individuals to lead with purpose, integrity, and empathy. By cultivating authentic leaders, we can better navigate the complexities of our rapidly changing world with clarity, compassion, and resilience. Let us remain steadfast in our commitment to authenticity, knowing that it is not only the key to leadership success but also the foundation of a more equitable and inclusive future.

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Danielle Terranova is the voice behind Leadership Lessons with Danielle.

She has been an executive coach since 2015 and owner of Terranova Consulting, LLC since 2019.


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