Authentic leaders should be able to build open and honest work relationships, while role-modeling self-care behaviour to encourage others to follow suit.
HR leaders always emphasise the need to encourage employees to be their true selves at work to bring out their best. To achieve this, leaders first need to take the lead to be authentic.
This is echoed by our recent interviews with Nina Hospitality’s Managing Director Simon Manning, Toys"R"Us Asia’s Chief People Officer Angel Kwok, and J.P. Morgan’s Head of HR for APAC Stephanie Keay, who all agreed on the importance of being a role model to others, and being an open and transparent leader.
So what does it mean to be an authentic leader? According to City Mental Health Alliance Hong Kong (CMHA HK), authentic leadership involves the alignment of thoughts, words and actions, and leading with both integrity and transparency. This leadership style prioritises meaningful workplace relationships and facilitates trust, loyalty and cohesion. In the long run, authentic leadership can boost employee morale and company productivity, as well as uplift the entire corporate culture.
Let’s check out the top tips for leading with authenticity as shared by CMHA HK.
Authentic leaders have emotional intelligence, have the capacity to reflect and are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. This includes being able to self-regulate and manage emotions. One way of demonstrating self-awareness is to seek feedback from the rest of their team on their working style and implement any reasonable changes that could facilitate better teamwork.
2. Strong moral code
Authentic leaders know what their core values are and use them as a clear frame of reference to lead. This involves advocating for causes that they believe in and having the courage to influence other leaders to drive change.
3. Relational transparency
Authentic leaders are open and honest in their work relationships. This can be shown by giving fair and constructive feedback to team members, whilst also having the emotional maturity to take accountability for their own actions.
4. Balanced processing
When it comes to decision-making, authentic leaders consider different points of view and seek input from other team members. Fair processing enables employees at all levels to be given the opportunity to share their points of view in a collaborative manner and as a result feel respected and valued. A key step to achieving this is to create psychological safety, so that team members are given the opportunity to express their thoughts, suggestions and concerns, without fear of negative consequences.
5. Refrain from sugar coating
Being authentic in the communications to employees around challenging periods or tough deadlines is important. This helps to alleviate uncertainty for employees, which is a big contributing factor towards poor mental health at work. Ensure that these periods of intensive hard work are then recognised and compensated for fairly at a later stage.
6. Practise authenticity at company level
While company policies may be helpful starting points to drive cultural change within an organisation, real change comes from effective implementation and uptake of these policies. This is an example of authenticity expressed at a company level – aligning what is being communicated to what is really being done.
7. Find allies
For authentic leadership to cascade throughout the organisation, other senior leaders also need to be willing to participate and commit to change. This ripple effect can begin by having a few leaders normalise conversations around mental health, speak up on the benefits of authentic leadership and lead by example.
Empathetic leaders tend to look after the needs of others at the expense of their own. Try to prioritise self-care practices in your daily routine. By role-modelling boundary-setting and self-care behaviours, leaders encourage the rest of the team to follow suit. Role-modelling also includes building team cohesion by supporting the team as a whole, rather than focusing on individual tasks.
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