It has been well documented today’s culture craves authenticity in leadership. It shouldn’t be, but many times it is hard to find in leadership, even in the church. One of the fastest way for a leader to lose loyal followers is to fall short in the area of authenticity.
Last year we met with a group of Millennials in our church – asking them to help us think how we can attract and retain their age group. The most repeated word was “authentic”. Funny thing, they couldn’t necessarily define the term when asked, but they apparently know when they see it – or don’t see it.
I was talking with a young staff member of another church recently. She said the reason she struggles to follow her pastor is he isn’t off stage who he claims to be on stage. He yells as staff members. He doesn’t protect his family. He never encourages others. I get it. I think all of us struggle with this one – both in living authentic lives and in following an inauthentic leader.
How can we be respected as authentic leaders? And, more, how do we remain authentic as leaders?
Here are 7 thoughts to be an authentic leader:
Make sure yes is yes and no is no
This means not over committing. It means following through on commitments made. It means learning to prioritize and learning to delegate. It means you can always be depended upon as a person of your word – and when you have to take back a commitment, recognize the tension it causes, and apologize if you need to. It helps people learn your word is good and worthy to follow.
Don’t call it awesome if it was mediocre at best
Many times as leaders we want to pretend something is better than it really is – or we are better than we really are – rather than admitting when something could be improved. We exaggerate our success and the success of the organization we lead. We pretend our church is bigger than it really is. We pretend we are more awesome than we really are and our life is more perfect than it really is. People usually can spot a pretender.
Don’t claim to know everything – or act like you do
No one knows everything. And, people know when we don’t. It’s better to admit it on our own. Plus, we devalue the contribution of others when we pretend to have all the answers.
Don’t receive credit when it’s not deserved
Taking credit for other people’s work is not only wrong, it causes people to mistrust leadership. Authentic leaders seek recognition for others equal or more than their own. They share ownership of mistakes the team makes and share ownership of recognition for things done right.
Ask for help
Every leader needs it. Authentic leaders seek it. And they give credit to where they received it. If you want to be respected by your team – ask for their input – and take their suggestions.
Remain accessible and accountable
The fastest way for a leader to get in trouble is to isolate him or herself from others. Authentic leaders live transparent lives in front of all people and completely open to a few. You don’t have to confess every sin to every person, but as leaders we need to live in a practice of confession for mistakes made. We need raw transparency of repetitive temptations, struggles and sins to a few people who can see and speak into the deepest parts of our lives. And, people need to have the freedom to ask the hard questions and challenge us where necessary.
Admit failures and confess fears
You make them. We all do. Everyone trying to follow a leader knows this about the leader. Authentic leaders readily own up to them. Leadership is scary. Authentic leaders push through fear but don’t pretend the fear is not real. They shoulder their burdens with their team.
What are some other ways you spot an authentic leader?