4 Key Traits to Becoming an Authentic Leader


You would have had to be under a rock for the past five years to not have heard about the value of authenticity. I’m talking about authenticity as a brand and authenticity as a leader.

Fact is, it’s something we see in the conscientious leaders of the benefit corporations we certify.

The reason for so much discussion is clear. Millennials, now the largest consumer group in the U.S., not only value authenticity but they demand it.

I need look no farther than at my own 20-something sons.

Homogeneity isn’t a default setting for them. They choose to surround themselves with authentic people — blue-collar, white collar, musicians, doctors, hair stylists and Peace Corps workers — the only common bond seems to be that these young men and women live authentically.

In other words, they live life on their own terms.

Elite Daily, the premier online news platform for and by Millennials, reveals in a 2015 research study the following finding:

“43% of Millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. They first have to trust a company or news site before they even bother reading the content that they provide. Blogs are meant to be authentic and many of them are run by a single individual. Millennials connect best with people over logos.”

Now if you’re a leader steering a company, working to attract the best employees or marketing products to Millennials, this is a wake-up call for you. In fact, the longevity of your career and your brand may very much depend on it.

Yes, I know that being authentic might be easier said than done. After all, a lot of us are used to “playing a role” in our jobs and in our relationships. But as research shows you, that is really no longer acceptable.

So how do you work toward becoming that “true version of yourself” particularly if you’re a leader?

Well, Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic and author of the book “Authentic Leadership,” says 4 key traits are present in every authentic leader:

1. They are self-aware and genuine. Authentic leaders clearly know their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. Most importantly, they show up the same way whether in the conference room or on the back patio. They do not fear looking weak by admitting their mistakes or weaknesses.

2. They are mission-driven and focused on results. Authentic leaders work to carry out the mission and achieve the goals of their organization. They seek results for the good of the company, not for their own personal gain.

3. They lead with their heart. Authentic leaders do not fear showing their emotions or their vulnerability when connecting stakeholders. When communicating with employees or customers, they do so in a direct manner but it’s always done with empathy.

4. They focus on the long-term. A key principle in Bill George’s model is that authentic leaders are focused on long-term shareholder value. Authentic leaders realize that to nurture individuals and to nurture a company requires hard work and patience, but the approach pays large dividends over time.

Now be honest. Doesn’t the idea of being authentic sound a whole lot better than conforming to a predetermined role?

Go here to learn more about becoming a certified Benefit Corporation for Good.


Tom Hering