“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
― May Sarton

The dictionary defines authentic as “not false or copied; genuine; real”.  Michael Hyatt wrote a post a couple of years ago defining authentic leadership.  In his post, he shares 5 traits of authentic leaders:

  1. Authentic leaders have insight.
  2. Authentic leaders demonstrate initiative.
  3. Authentic leaders exert influence.
  4. Authentic leaders have impact.
  5. Authentic leaders exercise integrity.

Last year, Forbes online also did a post defining authentic leadership.  They outlined 4 characteristics of authentic leaders:

  1. Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine.
  2. Authentic leaders are mission driven and focused on results.
  3. Authentic leaders lead with their heart [and minds].
  4. Authentic leaders focus on the long-term.

In this series of posts (there will be 3), though, I want to explore why authenticity is so powerful in leadership.  What is it about being a genuine leader that draws others in and makes for great leaders and teams?  First, though, I think we need to look at the “why behind the why.”  Why are more leaders not engaged in authentic leadership?

Reasons leaders are not authentic:


Leaders are human and like many of us, many leaders fear rejection.  They fear that they others will reject them if they show weakness.  For many younger workers, walls are a sign of weakness, and the ability to be authentic and real is a sign of strength.  Learn to cope with rejection and fear, and take a leap of faith into becoming a more authentic leader.


Another reason that people are not authentic is pride.  This is something I struggle with.  Along with pride comes the question, “What will people think of me?”  As leaders, we must move beyond that question (as hard as it can be at times) and move into the realm of being authentic with those we lead.


Many leaders have control issues.  They want to control every situation and as part of that, keep their personal lives and feelings to themselves.  There is a sense of fear here, but it centers around losing control (of themselves, of others, or the situation).  Ironically, when leaders try to maintain control too much, it is often lost in the process.

Keeping such tight reins on control also shows a lack of trust in your team when you refuse to let go and allow others to blossom.

“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”
Mother Theresa


In what ways do you resist being authentic with your team?  What do you think is behind that fear of being authentic?  Let me know in the comments below!

Read the rest of the series:

Why Authenticity is a Powerful Leadership Tool, Part 2

Why Authenticity is a Powerful Leadership Tool, Part 3

Image credit: nexusplexus / 123RF Stock Photo