GREG MOWBRAY: Authenticity the defining trait of able leadership

What people say or do behind your back can define your leadership capabilities. Picture: iStockWHAT are people saying about you as a leader behind your back?

You might not care but you should.

If you could eavesdrop, would your people be saying things like they trust you, that you follow through on your promises and that you are clear about your values?

Or might they say that you don’t always tell the truth, you say one thing and do another and you put off the hard decisions?

The perception of other people about you as a leader has the potential to make or break your ability to influence them.

There is one area that you simply must get right if you want be an effective leader.

It’s authenticity and many of us are unaware of its importance and how we rate.

Let me ask you a question.

What is the opposite of authentic? I’ll bet you thought of fake, false or phoney.

Am I right? Here is the thing with leadership – pure and simple.

If you are not authentic, you are a fake.

If you are not authentic, you are not who you say you are.

You are not the real deal, and your people know it.

It is a fact that if people don’t see a high level of authenticity, they won’t follow you.

It will be a major barrier to your effectiveness as a leader.

Sam Cawthorn is a professional speaker, author, philanthropist and a friend of mine.

He influences people all over the world in the area of resilience, specifically via his ‘‘bounce forward’’ message.

A key to Sam’s power to persuade is that he is completely and utterly authentic.

What you see is what you get. His integrity is everything to him and it pervades every word he shares. His audiences get it and respond accordingly.

There is a lot you can do to increase your ability to influence your audience. Here are five key things to focus on:

■Do what you say you are going to do. Sometimes we don’t deliver on our promises because of reasons beyond our control. Other times we let ourselves off the hook. Perhaps we say yes and know in our hearts that we simply can’t deliver. Being authentic means that we don’t make promises unless we are sure we can make good.

■Have difficult conversations without delay. No one likes conflict but as a leader there are times when we need to show courage and address people and issues that we don’t want to. If we ignore the problems and delay acting on them, we simply aren’t being authentic.

■Be consistent in your dealings with people. It’s a fact that we get on better with some people more than others. If we are inconsistent with how we deal with different people, and perhaps even play favourites, we will suffer in the eyes of others. Strive for consistency even though it may be difficult.

■Say what you mean and mean what you say. People appreciate straight shooters and straight talkers. I believe most people have good ‘BS detectors’. They will know if you are trying to mislead them or if you don’t believe what you are telling them. Tell it straight.

■Be the same on the outside as you are on the inside. Faking it can be exhausting. If there isn’t alignment between who you really are and who you are pretending to be, you’d better be a really good actor. Keep it simple by being yourself.

Being a leader can be a tough gig.

There are so many things to think about and make sure that we deliver on.

It’s hard to say what area of leadership is most important but if you ask me, without authenticity, you’ve got no hope.

Greg Mowbray is the founder and CEO of the Licence to Lead Leadership Development program and author of Road Rules for Leadership.

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