The Role of Authentic Leadership in Building Trust and Inspiring High-Performing Teams

The Role of Authentic Leadership in Building Trust and Inspiring High-Performing Teams was originally published on Ivy Exec.

What do leaders like Warren Buffet, Howard Schultz, and Oprah Winfrey have in common?

They’re all authentic because they embrace high standards and integrity, always acting in the best interest of their teams. As a result, they instill trust in the people they lead, naturally creating high-performing teams.

In this article, we’ll discuss the significance of authenticity in executive leadership, how to become more authentic, and answer the frequently asked questions (FAQs). 


What Is Authentic Leadership?

A theory created by Bill George in 2003 encourages leaders to be self-aware and genuine when dealing with their followers for organizational success. Authentic leaders are comfortable with their identity and make ethical decisions to foster trust within their teams.

This facilitates open communication, mutual respect, and a collaborative work environment where everyone feels safe to express their ideas and opinions.  


Why Execs Should Adopt an Authentic Leadership Style

Authentic leaders give 100% to their jobs and fully participate in the workplace, creating a trickle-down effect that inspires others to be honest and enthusiastic about their careers. This fosters a culture that promotes authenticity in the entire organization and enables execs to achieve the following:


1⃣ Enhance Team Performance

Teams that view their leaders as trustworthy and transparent are more likely to be cooperative and open to collaboration toward organizational objectives. As a result, you can experience increased productivity and turnover.

Authentic leaders connect deeply with their team members because they’re genuine and honest with valid core values and beliefs. The sincerity fosters an atmosphere of trust that is the foundation for successful collaboration in the workplace and beyond.

In contrast, an insincere, self-serving, or manipulative leader could decrease engagement and morale, decreasing turnover. 


2⃣ Improve Employee Engagement         

According to research, authentic leadership impacts diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) endeavors. Therefore, you’ll inspire loyalty and commitment among your team members once you become more authentic.

With increased engagement, employees are likely to be more courteous, virtuous, and diligent. This leads to numerous positive outcomes, including improved connections among colleagues and motivated team members ready to invest personal energy at work.

In a report, Cornell University revealed that organizations that encourage employees to share personal strengths and strategically encourage authenticity during onboarding have higher engagement and retention rates.


3⃣ Boost Innovation and Adaptation

Building trust empowers your team to take risks and express their opinions, even when it goes against the status quo. Adaptability builds decision-making skills that are valuable when navigating change to ensure everyone makes more informed decisions, especially when addressing potential problems. 


How to Become an Authentic Leader 

Even if you previously described your image narrowly, the great news is that your leadership style isn’t fixed in stone. First, you must gain awareness of your brand and current image before changing your leadership brand. 


✅ Cultivate Self-Awareness

To become an authentic leader, you must understand your values, strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Getting there is an endless journey requiring continuous self-reflection and implementation of feedback from others to gain deeper insight into yourself. 

A key component of authenticity is asking questions that reveal what you care about most. For example: What is your current skill level? How is it related to your role? How do your colleagues view your performance so far?


✅ Show Empathy and Vulnerability

Don’t be afraid to show your true self; it humanizes you, creating deeper connections with your teams. By admitting mistakes and practicing empathy, you could foster trust as it demonstrates genuine concern for your team’s well-being. 

According to an interview by Inc. Magazine, Warren Buffet admitted that one of the key traits that made him such a great leader is his willingness to confess mistakes and invite other team members to do the same.


✅ Be Proactive and Ask for Help

When trying to make significant changes in your life, such as adopting an authentic leadership style, you’ll face numerous decisions and challenges along the way.

Although faith in your judgment is a prerequisite, enlist your colleagues to act as feedback givers, problem-solvers, sounding boards, or cheerleaders. You can start soliciting feedback by messaging or emailing five people in your contact list and asking them to describe you. 

Once you ask for help, remain open to suggestions and consider all ideas, even if they elicit mixed feelings. Remember to make minor, daily tweaks for any actual, sustainable change in the long run.


✅ Master Effective Communication Skills

Authentic leaders are effective communicators, and you can build this skill by implementing the following tips:

  • Tell Stories: Become more engaging by giving examples through personal stories. Share past challenges, your solutions to these problems, or notable achievements to influence organizational culture. 
  • Master Your Message: Use every conversation and question to share your ideas and vision honestly. However, balance by discussing your concepts while demonstrating a tactical grasp.
  • Network With Other Leaders: When networking, go beyond collecting business cards and schmoozing. Build relationships and make alliances that benefit your acquaintances and organization. 
  • Use Vocal Variety: People listen better when your speech pattern is enthusiastic and pleasant. Don’t overuse certain words, stutter, or rush to speak without taking a breath. 
  • Enhance Visual Impact: As much as people want to hear what you’re saying, they’ll be more receptive when your nonverbal communication is effective. Consider updating your wardrobe or getting a haircut to project an image of confidence and job satisfaction. 
  • Develop Listening Skills: Authentic leaders are great listeners. Although keeping your mouth closed and listening to others seems simple, it’s not always easy. Practice mindfulness through active listening and letting others speak without interrupting them. 

✅ Seek Executive Coaching

An executive coach can help identify your values and beliefs when you’re stuck developing a clear self-awareness.

Coaching also guides you in becoming an authentic leader according to your values and provides support when aligning with your authentic self. Through coaching, you’ll overcome barriers preventing your authentic self from blossoming, such as imposter syndrome, vulnerability, or a lack of clarity around your true purpose.  


✅ Develop Your Code of Ethics

A code of ethics enables you to commit to the philosophies that make you more authentic because you believe in them. After you write the document, read through it daily to remember what you think in and seek encouragement to abide by your beliefs.

A personal code of ethics has three parts, as follows:

  1. The Purpose: Here’s where you explain why you’re writing the code of ethics. You could want to adjust your behavior or seek purpose and inspiration. In this part, you’ll develop the philosophy behind your code (which should match your goals and help you become a better person). 
  2. The Intention: Write what you’ll do based on the traits you possess now and those you’d like to acquire. For example, you could say, “I will be brutally honest with myself but understanding when dealing with others.” 
  3. The Reasons: Explain the reasons behind your beliefs and rules for dealing with others. Consider including the religious teachings you subscribe to here; refine and edit the document to fit the changes you want to see in your life. 


Here are some frequently asked questions you might be seeking answers for: 


❓ Can Any Exec Adopt an Authentic Leadership Style?

Yes. Authentic leadership is not inherent to only certain people. While it’s true that some individuals naturally possess several leadership traits, everyone can enhance self-awareness, hone ethical decision-making skills, and practice transparency. 


❓ Is Authentic Leadership Applicable in Different Industries?

Yes, the versatile style applies to various industries and cultural settings. The core principles of self-awareness and genuine leadership are universal, but the specific traits of authenticity may differ from industry to industry.


❓ How Can Execs Overcome the Pitfalls of Authentic Leadership?

The biggest challenges are struggling in a role or organization that doesn’t align with your authentic self, workplace controversy, and loss of values or personal identity. Overcome by working with a professional mentor or coach, gradually adopting the authentic leadership style, and asking for help or feedback, even when it feels uncomfortable.

By Ivy Exec
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