How to Become an Authentic LeaderAuthentic leadership is a style that is consistent with a leaders’ personality and core values, and that is honest, ethical, and practical.

“I believe authentic leadership does not come from title, social stature, or the size of one’s paycheck, but rather from how you live and the affect you make around you,” says Faisal Hoque in a Fast Company article.

Author Bill George popularized the concept of “authentic leadership” in his 2003 book “Authentic Leadership” and developed further in the later book “True North.”

Hoque shares some fundamentals to become an authentic leader.

Look at the Big Picture

The future is full of promise. If a door closes, a new one always opens. You may not have all the answers at your fingertips right now, but they will come. If you focus on one thing rather than the big picture, ask yourself what else is at play. You might discover ways to connect it to other areas of business.

Learn Valuable Lessons from Bad Times

“It’s often only through hardship that we discover our inner strengths and capabilities,” says Hoque.

Leaders can be effective in both good times and bad. When times are hard, effective leaders need to inspire and engage their teams.

Surround Yourself with the Right People

Hoque says, “The people we surround ourselves with make the difference between failure and success.”

Avoid people who waste your time and bring you down. Surround yourself with a strong base of talent and trust they will get things done.

Commit to Excellence

Authentic leaders constantly push the envelope and raise standards. Don’t seek perfection. No human being is perfect and it sets you up for failure.

Be Flexible

Authenticity comes from the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and situations.

Understand and assess a situation, modify plans, rally your team, and change a course of action.

Flexibility allows one to go with the flow, to keep stress levels manageable, and to maintain relationships that are critical for overall success.

Be Comfortable when Uncertain

Hoque says this is the mantra of an authentic leader. They are someone who does not follow in someone else’s footsteps. Their comfort with uncertainties drives them to make a difference.

To become an authentic leader requires a commitment to discover and develop your leadership style.

Bill George suggests, to begin to develop your authentic leadership style, you should begin by assessing yourself against the five qualities of an authentic leader: Understand your purpose, practice your values, lead with your heart, establish connected relationships, and demonstrate self-discipline.

What is your leadership style?

The Four Components of Authentic Leadership

More and more businesses and brands are focusing on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and executing social good campaigns.

Socially conscious consumers and employees are seeking out companies that share their values, and have a greater mission beyond the products and services they provide.

In an interview with Forbes, director of partnerships and strategy for GOODcorps Grant Garrison, shares his perspective on the rise of social good campaigns, why authentic leadership is so important, and the four vital components to authentic leadership.


The Four Components of Authentic Leadership

Pick an issue that is core to your business and brand

Championing a cause that connects with your business makes it possible to use both employees and assets to help with advancing the mission, building awareness, and educating others about the necessity for action. This puts your business in a position of education and advocacy, helping the broader community involved in taking action on an issue.

Add value to a community that cares about that issue — don’t just tell your story

The Pepsi Refresh Project (GOODcorp's first initiative) raised $32 million in grants for individuals, nonprofits, and social enterprises, demonstrating the company’s ability to contribute in a meaningful and impactful way.

The funds were raised through “an open-source, democratic platform that demonstrated latent demand for a national spotlight for community heroes.”

For Garrison, the success of the Pepsi Refresh Project was due to the company’s participation in charity communities and philanthropic groups as a benefactor, and not as a corporate sponsor.

Include members of the community in the planning process and execution

Garrison points out that it’s not enough to add value; companies need to involve the community they are trying to serve in planning and execution when starting social campaigns.

GOOD/CORPS partnered with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and Opportunity Equation, to create 100Kin10, a program geared towards supporting the STEM education for the next generation of scientists, technologists, and engineers.

Garrison explained, “100Kin10 is constantly refining this network of 160+ multi-sector partners in order to foster maximum collaboration toward 100,000 new, excellent STEM teachers in classrooms by 2021.”

By using the community, executive leadership at Carnegie ensured they were building a program the community needed, not what Carnegie thought they needed.

Be transparent about self-interest

“I think people are pretty hip to the idea that businesses aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their heart—that they have a self interest in it. So it’s better if people are transparent about that instead of trying to pretend that they are doing it for purely altruistic reasons,” say Garrison.

Companies interested in starting social good campaigns need to be honest about their intentions and self-interest, and communicate that when launching them.

Social campaigns can be incredibly effective marketing tools, as well as CSR initiatives, but should always be clearly labeled.

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