Wednesday, January 17, 2018

11 Must-Have Qualities of Authentic Leadership

I could tell she felt overlooked and undervalued as she shared what happened. I just tried to listen and be as understanding as possible. She felt like a leader had let her down. She felt diminished.

And I hate to see someone feel that way.

She had gone to a lot of work. It was a job well done. But she felt like no one noticed. At least, he didn't notice. The leader hadn't noticed her efforts.

Maybe she felt like no one ever notices? Her words came out defeated.

I felt empathy for her. But I also felt empathy for the leader. I don't think it was intentional. In fact, I'm almost certain it wasn't intentional.

And I couldn't help but think there were probably times someone else felt that way about my leadership, in spite of my best intentions.

Leadership is tough. Whether you're a principal, a teacher, a parent or just about anyone. If you've been in a leadership role, you've carried an important responsibility with that. It's a responsibility to your followers, to the people you're leading.

You feel that weight, that responsibility...if you're a good leader.

But you also know at some point, you're going to let someone down. Someone is going to be disappointed. They're going to feel like you made the wrong decision. Like you devalued their work. Like you didn't give your full support.

So let's just keep this in mind. Effective leadership must give grace.

But leadership needs grace too.

In the end, we can't expect our leaders to be perfect. We just need them to be authentic.

And we need them to do what's right and to always care about their followers.

So what does it mean to be an authentic leader? It doesn't mean you're perfect. You'll probably still fall short sometimes. But it does mean you're willing to be open, honest, and real. And it means you'll do everything you can to step up for the people counting on you.

Here are 11 Must-Have Qualities of Authentic Leadership. These are challenging for sure, but they are the qualities I aspire to meet. Of course, too often I fall short. But I'm still trying.

1. Lead with your heart.

It's important to care about others, not just for what they can do for you, but because you genuinely care. Because they matter. When you lead with your heart, you also listen with your heart. Be understanding.

2. Shoulder blame.

When something goes wrong, don't try to minimize it or deflect it. If it was your mistake, just own it. Apologize for it. Make it right. And then move forward from it.

3. Share credit.

Invest in the success of others. Be generous with recognizing their contributions. Be happy when they do well, in their professional or personal lives.

4. See the best in others.

And believe the best in others. Lift them up. See them for all the good they are and all the great they are becoming. Never underestimate someone or diminish their abilities. Never.

5. Seek criticism.

Authentic leaders want to know what they can do better. They want to know how their followers are experiencing their leadership. They want feedback, even when it's critical.

6. Lead with optimism.

Your attitude, positive or negative, will determine what kind of leader you will become. Effective leadership hinges on choices, not circumstances. Good leaders are positive even when things are tough.

7. Speak with honesty.

There is no effective substitute for the truth. Authentic leaders always speak truth, but they do it with all the understanding, care, and concern that's possible.

8. Manage emotions.

Leaders must have their emotional abilities in hand. It's difficult to lead if your emotions are running your life. You must feel all your feelings, even the distressing emotions. But you must respond in healthy ways, and not react in destructive ways.

9. Be a positive example.

Do what's right, not what's easy. Whatever qualities you want to see in others, demonstrate those qualities. Your example is your influence. It's the most powerful thing you have. Everyone is watching to see what the leader will do.

10. Be courageous.

Be willing to take a risk. To set things in motion. To move ahead. Lots of people see ways things should be different. A leader is willing to take action and lead others to take action to make things different. But it requires courage.

11. Be willing to grow and learn.

Authentic leaders do not have a rigid view of themselves. They are open to changing their leadership when they learn something new or they are presented with new information. It's important to be flexible and always be learning.

What else would you add to this list? How would you take these ideas deeper? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Your feedback makes us all stronger.

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