How to Become an Authentic Leader

Integrate your head with your heart and watch the results flow in.

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Leadership style is critical within an organisation. How a business is led either retains key individuals or deters them completely. Studies have revealed that organisations led by authentic individuals show greater growth. You need to lead by your values.

GG Van Rooyen

It’s relatively easy to practice your values when things are going well.  The true test is when you’re forced to make trade-offs between your values and what is important when the going gets tough.

How you walk this line could determine if you make it or break it in the business world.  Kate Moodley, Franchise Director for Discovery Consulting Services and the author of Be the CEO of Your Brand, weighs in on how to walk this line.

What is authentic leadership, and why should business owners care about it?

Authentic leadership is a type of leadership style in which people act in a real, genuine and sincere way that is true to who they are as individuals. To become an authentic leader, you need to uncover your purpose. Many successful entrepreneurs have built their businesses around their own narrative. The journey to authentic leadership begins with understanding your life story, your failures and your crucibles. 

A great example is Howard Schultz, who bought Starbucks at its infancy. His father was a delivery driver who was in an accident and lost his job. This incident shaped Schultz’s life. His mother was unable to work as she was pregnant at the time. They lost medical benefits and encountered deep financial challenges.

Schultz vowed to do things differently. His dream of building a company that his father would be proud of and that would offer medical benefits was the result. As business owners, it’s really important to understand your narrative as a person as it leads to your purpose and the reason you do what you are doing.


What can business owners do to start practising authentic leadership within their organisations? 

South Africa has so many examples of a lack of authentic leadership. This has severely impacted our economy and it will take years to recover. Daniel Goleman, author of What Makes a Leader, found through his research that qualities that are traditionally associated with leadership, such as intelligence, toughness, determination and vision are insufficient. 

Emotional intelligence plays a far greater role. EQ includes self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation and social skills. Higher EQ allows us to always self-regulate and make choices that are for the benefit of the greater good. This prevents leaders and business owners from losing their way.


How can business owners evaluate their own leadership style? 

It’s incredibly important as a leader to understand what your brand is within your organisation. As a leader, you need to have the EQ to receive constructive feedback on your leadership style.


Are there any key leadership traits business owners should avoid? How can they recognise them within themselves?

As a leader, ensure that you avoid the following: Don’t expect your team to worker harder than you — lead by example. Never lack enthusiasm about what you are doing. Don’t not communicate with members of your team about your vision and goals.

Don’t be closed off to new ideas and innovation from your team members. Don’t micro-manage. Instead, empower people enough to live the values of running a ‘business within a business’. Don’t not be empathetic — be human.


How important is transparency and inclusion when it comes to leadership structures within a business?

Restructuring within a business can be an incredibly taxing process for the employer and employee.

It’s absolutely critical to be honest and lead the transformation with integrity and due process. It’s a matter of the heart as well, and therefore incredibly important to demonstrate a level of empathy.

You will always get the best out of people if you are an inclusive leader and you provide transparency in your thinking on the change. In order to be an effective leader, you must have the ability to integrate your head (IQ) with your heart (EQ).