Characteristics of Effective Leadership: Authenticity

In our last newsletter we described WJM Associates’ Leadership Point-of-View by highlighting seven characteristics of effective leadership. As a quick review they are: Authenticity, Decisiveness, Strategic Acumen, Vision, Humility, Talent Selection, and Coaching and Feedback. To see the full article, as well as best practices for developing effective leaders within an organization, please click here.

The next several issues of the WJManagement Advisor will each include an article focusing on one of these characteristics. In this issue we begin by addressing the first of these seven: Authenticity.

What does it mean to be authentic? The word is broadly defined as being believable, trustworthy, reliable, real and genuine. These are important attributes to have for any leader, at any level, to be effective. The next question that comes to mind is how does one ensure that they are authentic in their leadership? Rather then rely on chance or wishful thinking; it helps to have a thoughtful plan with key actionable items.

Taking personal and professional inventory is clearly the best place to begin. What we mean is thinking through the items that truly are meaningful and important in all aspects of your life. Questions to ask yourself to gain clarity in this area include:

  • What are my values and guiding principles? This question will answer how you plan to live your life both professionally and personally. There should not be a major deviation between the two.
    • Action Item: Set time aside over the next few weeks and think about this question and take pen to paper to develop your own values, mission in life and guiding principles. Ideally, of course, the organization you work for should have a mission, vision and values that are in alignment with your own.
  • Who am I and how am I hard-wired? Many leaders try to lead by observing or reading historical biographies of other great leaders, whether it be Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Margaret Thatcher. These leaders are all acknowledged as great and influential leaders, yet their styles could not be more different. They all possess different personalities and life experiences that shaped their views, thoughts and the way they lead. We too are distinct and unique individuals with different leadership styles.
  • Action Item: If you have never been assessed, we recommend that you do so as soon as possible. By taking the MBTI or 16PF assessments you will gain and learn a great deal about yourself and how others perceive you. Additional assessments include 360 interviews, as well as an emotional intelligence instruments. Feedback should be administered by a licensed psychologist or skilled interpreter.
  • Action Item: Ask yourself if you could do anything in the world, with money being a non-issue, would you still be doing what you are currently doing? If the answer is an emphatic yes, then there is no reason for concern. If you hesitate in answering this question there could be a personal mission, vision, and values disconnect.
  • Action Item: Ask around and determine if your team, as well as subordinates, clearly know and understand where the company is and where it is headed. If you are receiving mixed messages, clearly there is an issue or perhaps some fine tuning in what and/or how you are communicating.
  • Do I have passion for the work I do? Some leaders may be very talented, yet do not have the true passion or interest in the business they are in or the position they currently hold. If a leader is not passionate in their work, it is difficult to motivate teams or stay the necessary course. There is a great degree of transparency that leaders exhibit without even knowing it in this area.
  • Is my communication style consistent with the company’s mission, vision and values? Authentic leaders develop a transparent communication style that is clear and concise, which eliminates ambiguity and mixed messages.

By highlighting a few key components of becoming an authentic leader, we hope these thoughts help you to reflect on the authenticity of your leadership style. The key with any change is implementing and incorporating it over time.


Scott Litchfield, Vice President, has been an Account Director for WJM Associates since 2004. Scott serves as a strategic partner to WJM’s customers in the New Jersey and New York City areas.

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