What makes an authentic leader? What are the core characteristics of an authentic leader? To be an authentic leader it is about taking on key traits. These are traits you can learn and also grow as you develop as a leader. 

The first step has been achieved. You are here. You want to learn. That really is a core characteristic of being an authentic leader, the drive to want to be better! 

But, let’s go through what the 8 main characteristics are of an authentic leader! 

The benefits of being an authentic leader 

Before we go into the characteristics, let’s look at the benefits of authenticity. The key here really is that if you are authentic, if you’re vulnerable, you’re also creating an environment that lets others be themselves, and show more of themselves. To feel safe to be themselves. That will lead to a lot of amazing benefits.

These were highlighted in a study, referenced in a Harvard Business Review. The study said, “feelings of authenticity are, the greater their job satisfaction, engagement, and self-reported performance”.

These benefits include: 

  • Better relationships with colleagues
  • Higher levels of trust
  • Boosts employee engagement.
  • Greater productivity
  • A more positive working environment
  • Inclusive culture and a culture of belonging

Because if we’re authentic, if we build an environment of psychological safety, we invite everyone to show up, ask them. To own up to who they are to their mistakes, and also embracing who they are, their strength and their uniqueness and what they are bringing to the role.

And this is just so powerful. If we can start to focus more on what’s right with ourselves and other people, instead of what’s wrong and what we have to fix. So by creating this authentic leadership and this environment of psychological safety, we can fully step into this leadership and create a culture that is so connected and strong. 

The 8 characteristics of an authentic leader 

Here are the 8 characteristics you need to know! 

ONE: Authentic leaders are committed to the journey and learning

What sets authentic leaders apart is that they’re committed to the journey of learning and development. You are reading this, so that suggests you have this core characteristic! 

Authentic leaders are happy. They have high self actualisation. They can set themselves goals and targets, but they can also review what has happened. 

They can be self-aware and they can reflect on what’s going on and change and adapt their behaviors as a key to create better impact, better relationships, a better environment.

TWO: Authentic leaders have self-awareness: internal and external

The second characteristic is, authentic leaders are highly self-aware. Internally and externally. Internal self-awareness is all about understanding who you are as a person. What are your values? What are your strengths, but also what are your emotional responses? What are your triggers? Where do you lose patience or become angry or frustrated?

So internal self-awareness is closely connected to your emotional intelligence. We look at internal self-awareness versus external self-awareness and internal self-awareness is obvious. Looking inwards.

It’s looking at who you are, what you stand for, but also your emotional reactions and triggers. What are the things that trigger you to lose your patients or become frustrated? What are the things and behaviors that you stand for, what are the triggers and behaviors of others that make you react in a certain way, but also what are the circumstances that you react to?

From there you can make decisions of how you are, how you adapt your behaviors?

External awareness is how you witness things externally. How do you actually come across? How do people see you? And there it’s really interesting to start to see, okay. Is actually the picture that I have of myself and the version that I want to put out there is that perceived by others.

Do they see that? Do they see me as that person that I want to be? And if not, how can I make adjustments to them? What are the things that motivate you?

THREE: Authentic leaders build their unique leadership identity

The third characteristic of authentic leaders is that they know their leadership identity. They know the unique leadership identity, they know their values, what they stand for, it’s their inner compass. It’s the guiding principles that help them to make the tough or critical decisions that align it back to their value to steer or show up with intention.

They know their purpose. They know why they’re here. They know why they do what they do. They know what their mission and vision is. And they also know what motivates them, how they get to where they want to go. What are the drivers behind their actions.

And they also know that unique story and how their life story helps them be the best leader they can be.

authentic leader

FOUR: Authentic leaders lead from their strengths

The fourth characteristic of authentic leaders is that they lead with their strength. They are not trying to hide something about them. They’re not trying to hide weaknesses. They are feeling very confident in their strengths and embrace their strengths. These leaders know how to use their strength, to have impact, to communicate, to create accountability, to boost their own confidence, their motivation.

They know how to show up to be their best. 

Therefore they don’t feel the need to put on a mask because they know inside that they have what it takes. We all have amazing strengths that let us create impact and let us show up to be our best selves and be amazing leaders. So when we embrace that, we can let go of the fear of being found out of imposter syndrome.

We can let go of wearing a mask. We can be who we are. We can own up to the things that just don’t come as easily. And that’s totally fine. We can also embrace and communicate our strengths with confidence.

FIVE: Authentic leaders are transparent – no hidden agendas

The fifth characteristic of authentic leaders is that they are transparent. They don’t have a hidden agenda. They communicate what’s going on. They communicate about why things are happening, why things are needing to be done. Even the tough decisions.

These leaders are not fake. They’re not two faced. So people know that they stand for what they say. They’re committed to what they say. 

SIX: Authentic leaders show ethical behaviour

The sixth characteristic of authentic leaders is that they have an ethical compass, a moral compass. They act based on their morals. They act for the greater good. They look at what impact their actions have on people. 

They are not driven by selfish motivators. They’re driven by what needs to happen for the greater good.

that committed not to cause harm to others. And they’re also committed to drive and foster diversity and an inclusive work environment.

SEVEN: Authentic leaders are courageous – ready to step into discomfort

The seventh characteristic of authentic leaders is that they are courageous and they’re ready to step outside of their comfort zone. And by doing that, I don’t mean you have to take the biggest leap, but it’s just challenging yourself to take one little step at a time. To step outside of your comfort zone regularly. Authentic leaders know that that’s where the growth zone is opening up.

It might be about having tough conversations. It is about not shying away from having the conversations that need to be. Conversations that might make you feel awkward. That might be tough for some people to hear, but they know that this is important for change and to drive change, they’re ready to step into short-term discomfort for long-term comfort.

So they are courageous. They take courageous action.

EIGHT: Authentic leaders create a psychologically safe environment for others to step into their authenticity

And lastly, authentic leaders, they create psychological safe environments and they’re committed to help everyone be the best they can be, be seen for who they are, be accepted and appreciated for who they are. Take risks and not be put or shamed for making mistakes or taking risks.

They’re curating an environment where everybody is safe to be themselves. Everybody can step into their strengths and everybody can bring their best selves.

Final thoughts 

So those 8 characteristics are so powerful, aren’t they? So if you’re ready to step into that, just make a list today. Think about what are the characteristics that you want to focus on. And if you would like a little bit of help, remember, you can take my authentic leadership quiz and you can start to get a bit of a feeling for what’s your unique strength when it comes to authentic leadership and start to take action from today to communicate with impact.

Do you want more on authentic leadership, check out the wide variety of blogs here! More importantly, if you want to learn more about who you are as a leader (as mentioned above), discover your Authentic Leadership Superpower in this FREE quiz!  

Find out how to use this superpower to build strong relationships, communicate assertively, lead effectively and inspire others.