Leading With Authenticity  — Lionesses of Africa

by Shatho Babitse 

Have you ever encountered an authentic leader? Someone whose voice resonates with their heart when they speak, to such an extent that you get goose-bumps? Someone who, even if you disagree with, you respect and seek to emulate? Well, I have. And it is truly a remarkable experience. 

It is no secret that Covid-19 has changed the world and altered the way we do business, go about our daily lives and connect with people. But, as we acclimate and adapt to the new normal, how can the important elements of leadership migrate, translate and evolve in this new world to ensure business longevity and success? Congruence between values and actions is one of the critical factors that motivate influential leaders to become their best self. In turbulent times, many leaders avoid sharing difficult truths. They sometimes offer false encouragement. Yet in trying situations, it’s even more imperative for leaders to have straightforward and truthful conversations with their team, effectively communicate early and often, and follow through on delivering set goals and targets. 

But what characterizes authentic leadership, and why is it a worthy pursuit? Here are a few traits of authentic leaders offered by Harvard Business School Professor Nancy Koehn:

To become more effective at motivating and guiding others, authentic leaders need to first focus on bettering themselves, Koehn says. Investing in yourself through such avenues as taking an online course can be a way to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to help your team thrive. Beyond bolstering your resume, participating in leadership training can enable you to build a network you can lean on as you continue to grow.

Another trait of an authentic leader as suggested by Professor Koehn is having a keen sense of self-awareness. Moreover, research shows companies that employ professionals who exhibit high levels of self-awareness tend to perform better. Through looking inward and engaging in self-assessment, you can not only gain a deeper understanding of your own emotions and beliefs, but improve your perception of those held by others.

In addition to this, research shows that having a deep and abiding commitment to a mission is integral to both authentic leadership and business success. According to a survey by EY and Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 89% of executives said a sense of collective purpose drives employee engagement, and 84% said it leads to greater success in transformational efforts. Although identifying your mission can take time, it is a worthwhile pursuit.

When I think about all the effective and influential leaders I have met on my personal and professional spheres, each with their own unique styles and attributes, I can boldly conclude that the one trait that they all have in common, is Authenticity. 

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