What does being an “authentic leader” really mean?

Written By Chris Maslin


Authentic Leadership

Every boss has a leadership style. Some are better than others, and some are downright ineffective. But the truth is, if you’re not authentic, it doesn’t matter if you’re a strategic leader or a democratic leader, a natural-born trailblazer or someone who has to work at it. Why? Your employees and peers can tell when you’re not being truthful, to yourself or to them. Here at Biltmore, we’ve had the privilege of serving under some remarkably transformative, authentic leaders—leaders who are genuine and real with their employees. From George and Edith Vanderbilt to William Cecil, our leaders have demonstrated kindness, the desire to serve their employees and ultimately, what it means to be authentic.  

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Authentic Leaders are Self Aware

At the core of every authentic leader is a fundamental understanding of self. Simply put, authentic leaders know who they are—what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at, what’s important to them and what they can live without. And those understandings, those core truths, extend into their work. You’ll never find an authentic leader trying to disguise who they really are.

Authentic Leaders have Vision

Yes, authentic leaders are well informed and involved in their organization’s current happenings. But they aren’t just focused on the present day. They always have one eye on the future. Vision-oriented strategists, they establish goals and work day-in and day-out to meet them. As a result of their planning prowess and knack for anticipating certain scenarios, authentic leaders establish effective processes and thus, help cement more successful organizations.

Authentic Leaders are Vulnerable

Never the type to shy away from uncomfortable conversations or open-door policies, authentic leaders value truth, transparency—and their employees. Great leaders treat their staff—whether entry level or senior management—with respect in the form of vulnerability. They demonstrate courage and kindness, authority and confidence no matter the situation. Why? Keeping secrets and springing surprises doesn’t usually bode well for leaders. People want to know what those in management positions are thinking and feeling—and leaders who comply show employees that they’re trusted and valued, which results in improved loyalty and morale.

Even the greatest leaders spend time refining their skills. If you’re ready to finesse your leadership style, join us for an Authentic Leadership workshop with Biltmore Center for Professional Development.