The Core Behaviors of an Authentic Leader

July 16, 2020


Warm Up

Why are we drawn to authenticity and why does it matter?

No one wants to feel like they are a commodity, and authentic leaders use their influence to care, not to coerce. Instinctively we are drawn to people who treat us like human beings. We weren’t designed to be the cog in someone else’s agenda; instead, we are wired to be in authentic relationships based on love, transparency, and truth.

When authentic leaders create a safe context that amplifies our abilities, we can develop into the people we were created to be.

But authenticity is also attractive because it offers up the full story. Rare is the leader who doesn’t alter their image to influence public perception. There is a phoniness that overlays how most leaders operate in the world, but authentic leaders operate in a different way.

Trust is forfeited when a manicured image is more important to a leader than authentic connection. Authentic leaders are able to be real without being egregious, genuine without being irresponsible, and transparent without being phony. Authenticity is built on trust, humility and influence.

As we look closer at what it means to be an authentic leader, here are three principles of authentic leadership that you can start practicing today.



Authentic leaders consistently build trust

Authentic leaders establish trust by aligning their habits, words, and actions with their beliefs, messages, and instructions. The authentic leader is a radically consistent leader. The most effective leaders are the men and women who most consistently model the habits, attitudes, and actions they preach to their teams. Deposits of trust are made when a leader does what they say they are going to do.

A great example of this is New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Belichick’s philosophy is encapsulated in the single phrase, “Do your job.” He teaches his players to block out external noise in order to stay consistent and committed to the task in front of them. The single biggest reason why the Patriots have adopted this mindset is because Belichick models this approach in his own life. Here is what Michael Lombardi had to say about Belichick’s reaction to the outcome of a game: “In the NFL most teams exaggerate the wins and forget about the losses. Belichick is the same with both.” Belichick establishes trust by consistently practicing what he preaches.

Authentic leaders practice humility

Authentic leaders have the humility to understand that the position of leadership carries a cost along with. Leadership always has a price.

Ultimately, fulfilling your purpose is about becoming a means to an end that is not primarily centered on yourself and authentic leadership is about figuring WHO you are here for more than WHAT are you are here to do.

It takes a humble leader to die to themselves in service of their team. When a leader is able to practice this kind of radical humility, trust is earned and authenticity is established with their team. Authentic leaders have the humility to ask questions, seek team member’s opinions, and build a culture that prioritizes a humble pursuit of the truth.

Authentic leaders guard their influence

Author Michael Hyatt says this about influence: “Influence and influenza come from the same root word. Real leaders are contagious.” Authentic leaders guard their influence to ensure they are “infecting” their followers in a positive way.

Influence can be used for good or bad because leadership is more caught than taught — just like you can catch a cold, virtues like generosity and kindness are contagious. A leader’s influence is always a function of their ability to integrate a set of core values into their daily behaviors. Put more simply, people will always follow how a person lives more than they what a person says.

Jesus understood this perfectly when he said, “I am the way” and invited his followers to follow his living example — not just a system of beliefs.

A leader’s influence is always governed by the extent to which they can effectively live out their beliefs in front of their followers. Influence is powerful, and authentic leaders will guard it with wisdom and consistency.



Start to apply these principles of authentic leadership today by writing down one specific way you can:

  1. Consistently Build Trust
  2. Practice Humility
  3. Guard Your Influence

Start working to become an authentic leader today!

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