Six Habits of Authentic Leaders

authenticity May 06, 2024
Build good habits

I have been hearing a lot of talk about authentic leadership lately. And guess what? It seems like we don't all share the same definition.  

Authentic leadership seems to be one of those ambiguous concepts everyone discusses, as if we all agree on a precise definition. 

I teach a course on systems leadership in the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability within the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech.  (Yes, I know - you are asking what a psychologist is doing teaching in natural resources.  That topic is for another day and another blog.) 

Anyway - I asked my students to tell me what authentic leadership meant.  I got 20 different answers, and yes, you guessed it, I have 20 students!

Anyway, I decided to outline what I mean by authentic leadership. To do so, I am listing the six habits I believe authentic leaders demonstrate: 

1. Deep Reflective Practice

Authentic leaders continuously practice deep reflection to understand and regulate their emotions. 

2. Radical Openness

Rather than just being transparent, authentic leaders practice radical openness. They share not only their successes but also their failures and uncertainties. They foster a culture where mistakes are learning opportunities. 

3. Guided by Core Values

Authentic leaders make ethical decisions guided by their core values. 

4. Dynamic Consistency and Alignment 

Authentic leaders strive to act in alignment with their values.  Yet their principles may evolve as they grow through experiences and reflections. 

5. Empathetic Engagement

Authentic leaders consider the emotional undercurrents in interactions and strive to respond accordingly. 

6. Cultivating Ecosystems

Authentic leaders cultivate ecosystems. They recognize the interdependence of all organizational systems and members and consider these systems of people and processes when they seek change. 

These habits can contribute to a deeply human, engaging, and productive organizational culture. And guess what - anyone can practice the six habits of authentic leaders. Our complex organizations need every one of us to be authentic leaders. 


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