Leadership has been put to the test today more than ever.

In the past few decades, business owners have been managing striking a balance between their leadership styles while at the same time facing shifting challenges on technologies, customer demands, and competition. Although building on and improving leadership skills should be an important part of a business, it constantly falls down the list of priorities when day-to-day challenges arise in the company. However, as the era of ‘The Great Resignation’, a term initially popularized in 2019 by Dr. Anthony Klotz, a psychologist, and professor at Texas A&M, is upon us, business leaders need to rethink their strategies. Reflecting on who you are as a leader, analyzing what your company stands for, and envisioning how you want it to grow with your people are crucial aspects worth refocusing on.

As for employees, a growing number of them are taking a step back and seeking answers through existential questions and trying to identify their real purpose while aligning it with what they do on a daily basis. The same approach must also be utilized by business leaders.

While the cost of recruitment, training, development, and employee turnover continues to increase, reconsidering current company policies and leadership techniques is critical. It holds particularly true for Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) which generally practice lean systems, thereby not maintaining large numbers of talent. The impact of an employee leaving an SMB is generally harder than it would be on a larger company.

As business leaders, what can you do to help address this problem?

Adapting an authentic leadership style might be the best solution to this growing concern. Research reveals how such a leadership style drives productivity and performance among organizations.

Ready to be an authentic leader? Here are the

Mission-Driven

Authentic leaders can lead others effectively to accomplish a collective goal if they know where they are going. An alignment of your personal and your company’s mission reinstates a more profound commitment for authentic leadership and business success to transpire.

Research uncovers the power of a collective purpose, positioned as a North Star, in driving employee engagement. Besides hitting the targets, employees seek meaning in what they are doing and are empowered by knowing where it fits in with the overall strategy and target.

While some realize their mission early on, for others, determining their mission may take time.

Self-awareness

An essential trait of being an effective leader is having a good understanding of who you really are. Knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are and performing to them.

It is with a self-awareness that you truly identify your abilities, purpose, principles, and motivations. Through self-assessment, you can gain a deeper understanding of your inner self while at the same time improving your perception of others.

Active Listener

A good leader is one who listens to their team members and provides sound advice. However, authentic leaders actively listen to what their team members and fellow leaders are saying and actively solicit feedback from others to get a 360˚ perspective.

Through their well-developed listening skills, they can arrive at sound decisions benefitting the whole company.

Commitment for Improvement

Authentic leaders need to commit to improving themselves before they can encourage others to do the same.

As the Japanese term ‘kaizen’ highlights, continuous improvement is the key to a productive and transformational workplace. To be equipped with an authentic leadership style, invest in yourself through self-development courses, seek mentorship, and participate in training to broaden your skills. Learning never stops no matter what your age or stature is.

Disciplined

Knowing your strengths, motivations, values, and limitations is only half the battle if they are not acted upon. Self-awareness requires the right amount of discipline. Make a daily checklist of your responsibilities – that includes providing feedback to your team. Allow the practice of self-awareness to cascade through your organization.

Great Motivator

Authentic leaders can inspire others through their genuine actions and words with sincerity. Putting your trust among your team members and empowering them to make sound judgments helps set them up for success.

An authentic leadership style builds on mutual trust and respect by being honest in regard to your shortcomings and being accountable to your team. It is achieved by creating genuine

relationships with your team members and meeting them eye-to-eye as you all strive to hit your goals.

Empathy and emotional control

It is only natural for leaders to get carried away by their emotions now and then. Through regular practice of self-awareness, authentic leaders learn how to set aside their emotions and become objective in fulfilling their leadership role. With an authentic leadership style, they offer honest feedback and do not mix their personal judgment of others’ actions and performance.

Authentic leaders are also highly empathetic – this empathy is fostered through constant communication and relational transparency with their team members. Empathetic leaders do not stop at observing the negative and positive actions displayed by their members at face value. Instead, they seek to understand the reasons and motivations behind these actions.

Ethical behavior

One’s ethical and moral standards are the guiding factor to self-regulate an individual’s behavior. An authentic leader is characterized by one who does not give in to external pressures or rewards when making decisions.

However, demonstrating ethical behavior is much easier if proper moral and ethical values have been set and agreed on early on.

A study shows the significant relationship between authentic leadership and retention. The direct effects of an authentic leadership style are associated with elevated levels of member commitment and job satisfaction.

The challenge to shifting to an authentic leadership style continues as employees search for a more meaningful profession and workplace alignment.

References:

Avolio, B. & Gardner, W. (2005). Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(3). 315-338. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.03.001

Crawford, J. A., Dawkins, S., Martin, A., & Lewis, G. (2020). Putting the leader back into authentic leadership: Reconceptualising and rethinking leaders. Australian Journal of Management, 45(1), 114–133. DOI: 10.1177/0312896219836460

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