Tools to Become an Authentic Leader

Authentic leadership

The Power of Authenticity

Be yourself. Be true to you. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t put on false airs. Be authentic.


“The essence of authenticity is being yourself fully.” –Karissa Thacker


Most leaders hear this advice but don’t know what it means, what to do about it, or how it impacts everyday life in the office.

Becoming an authentic leader is more than a lofty goal. It’s an essential part of your effectiveness. My own experience is that it’s often authenticity that sets the great leaders apart. We don’t always know why we are inspired by certain individuals, but I think it is this characteristic that appeals to us at a deep level.

To learn more about this subject, I read Karissa Thacker’s terrific new book, The Art of Authenticity: Tools to Become an Authentic Leader and Your Best Self. Karissa is the founder and president of Strategic Performance Solutions. She is a management psychologist, focusing on human performance and satisfaction at work. I recently asked her to share some thoughts about her work on authenticity.


“There is no one alive who is more Youer than You.” –Dr. Seuss


What I particularly like about her new book is that, as the subtitle of the book suggests, she provides tools to help with the goal.


Lead with Authenticity

How would you define authenticity in leadership?

9781119153429.pdfBoth authenticity and leadership are important in defining authentic leadership. Leadership is about getting things done that are both difficult and important in the context of a specific organization or more broadly any human community. Authenticity adds another layer which is being true to your own nature AS you are getting things done that are difficult and important.

What’s the relationship between authenticity and leadership?
Our typical way of thinking about authenticity is to just be yourself, and it will all turn out better. Of course, be yourself. It sounds so simple. The first problem with that is you are not that simple. We humans are just not that simple. There is no one solid self like a concrete block. Our hardwired adaptive traits as humans mean that we behave differently under different situations and circumstances. Leadership requires this adaptability. But you have to find ways to communicate who you are as you are leading effectively. More importantly, you have to figure out ways to stay in touch with what is important to you as you are in the thick of getting things done. Paying attention to the inner game and outer game at the same time is a lot easier said than done. Said another way, it is easier to just be authentic or just figure out how to get things done that are difficult and important. But the daily question is how do we do both at the same time?


“Authenticity is knowing, and acting on, what is true and real inside yourself…” –Robert Terry


Why do you think there is currently so much interest in leadership authenticity?
Trust in big institutions like our government here in the US is low. I also think that the modern era poses some challenges with upping the ante on aspects of authenticity like transparency. Like it or not, we are in an age of transparency. The boundaries between private life and work or with private life in general are not what they used to be.

Leadership is never a value-neutral concept. To say someone is a leader means we have high expectations. A lot of this interest comes down to people wanting our leaders to step up and make things happen that are good for the whole. Any robust discussion of authenticity takes you fully into the thicket of human moral psychology as authenticity is so not a value-neutral construct.


“Fear is not your friend if you want a culture of authenticity.” –Karissa Thacker


Jim Carrey’s movie Liar Liar immediately came to mind when I read your Truth Serum Question. Would you share this exercise with us?

How to Manage Poor Attitudes in the Workplace

There are so many benefits to a positive attitude. One study even shows that positive participants live up to 10 years longer than negative participants.


“A positive attitude reduces stress, improves performance, creativity, and relationships.” -Skip Prichard


A negative attitude increases stress and reduce performance, creativity and damages your leadership potential. And, studies show that a negative attitude in the workplace has a longer lasting impact on others than a positive one.

This infographic shows the dangers of a poor attitude and ways to turn it around. Catch your own attitude before it damages your team and your career.


Negative attitudes have a more lasting impact than positive ones.





Study: 77% of employees have witnessed childish behavior among colleagues.


Enjoy a positive day! Thank you for the infographic.

Does Your Body Language Signal Confidence or Weakness?

Ever experience social anxiety or been nervous about an upcoming meeting or job interview? Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy has outlined some simple practices that can help anyone in stressful situations.

Her research indicates that body language can signal power or weakness:


“Don’t fake it ‘til you make it; fake it ‘til you become it.” -Amy Cuddy


Body Language that Signals Weakness and Negativity:

  • Slumping
  • Making yourself small
  • Touching your face or neck
  • Folding your arms


Body Language that Signals Confidence and Positivity:

  • Standing up tall
  • Making eye contact
  • Smiling

So we know body language can definitely affect the way others perceive us, but can it affect the way we perceive ourselves?

“Do our nonverbals govern the way we think and feel about ourselves?”

According to Cuddy’s research, the answer is a resounding yes.

Try it.

Force yourself to smile for five minutes straight and you will begin to feel happy.

Our bodies can change our minds. There are definite physiological differences depending on your body pose. In one study, Curry had a group of people adopt low power poses and the other group high power poses.


Research: Powerful body language can cause hormonal changes in the body.


Boost Your Own Confidence

Afterwards, their saliva was tested and the people with the high power poses had testosterone increase by 20% versus a decrease in testosterone by 10% in the other group. Actual hormonal changes take place in the body.

The group that practiced the positive body pose were much more passionate, authentic and captivating as compared to the negative group. But here’s the kicker, it wasn’t that these individuals were putting on false airs, they were simply comfortable enough to be themselves.


“Our bodies change our minds.” -Amy Cuddy


Strike a Confident Pose

Understanding Leadership Styles

It’s important to know as much as possible about your own style of leadership. I have found that sharing my preferred style with my team is not only helpful, but starts a good conversation about strengths and weaknesses. It’s equally important to know the styles of those around you. It helps build a team.

Remember: All styles of leadership work in different situations.

What type of leader are you? To take a quiz and see your type, click here.


“On matters of style, swim with the current; on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” –Thomas Jefferson


“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” -Yves Saint Laurent




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Infographic courtesy of

Leadership Lessons from Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Lessons from Downton Abbey

After six seasons, the popular PBS series Downton Abbey has ended. As the series unfolded, we watched the characters evolve through many changes in their society and personal lives. As the characters changed and matured, there were numerous lessons and wisdom for life demonstrated in the show.


“Leadership through visible action is always effective.” -Bruce Rhoades


Each of these characters also demonstrated leadership attributes that can be learned from watching them deal with the various situations that confronted them.

Here are a few of the leadership lessons exhibited by the characters:


Lesson from Lord Grantham: Often the ‘best man for the job’ is a woman.


Robert Crawley, Lord Grantham

  • No strategy will work forever. Watch for environmental and market changes and adapt.
  • Learn to delegate to those who are more suited to new endeavors. Take their advice, trust them and start small.
  • For long-term viability, a leader needs to groom successors and allow others to exercise their talent.
  • A successful leader needs to attract those with complementary skills to his/her own, then allow them to take action.
  • Often the “best man for the job” is a woman.


“A successful leader needs to attract those with complementary skills, then allow them to take action.” –Bruce Rhoades



Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham

  • Communication, patience and being non-judgmental are necessary to allow others to adapt to change.
  • Sometimes it is most effective to act quietly and consistently in small ways to effect change. Open confrontation elicits defensiveness in others.
  • Open acceptance and acknowledgement of others builds trust and opens communication.
  • Sometimes keeping the peace in the short term provides opportunities for change in the long term.


“Keep the peace in the short term to allow change in the long term.” –Bruce Rhoades


Mr. Carson, the Butler

  • Giving orders works in the short term but does not create lasting change or personal growth in others.
  • Be respectful of those in your charge, you may need them later to move forward.
  • Failure to acknowledge change weakens your leadership.
  • Expecting perfection limits and stifles the efforts of those around you.
  • Management by intimidation does not create loyalty.


“Expecting perfection limits and stifles the efforts of those around you.” –Bruce Rhoades


“Management by intimidation does not create loyalty.” –Bruce Rhoades


“Failure to acknowledge change weakens your leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades


Lady Mary Crawley

  • Wisdom can come from any level in the organization.
  • Arrogance does not foster collaboration, trust or effective leadership.
  • Putting others down does not build you up.
  • For continued success, a leader must acknowledge change and act accordingly.


“Wisdom can come from any level in the organization.” –Bruce Rhoades


“Putting others down does not build you up.” –Bruce Rhoades


Lady Edith Crawley

  • Truthfulness will always yield the best, lasting results.
  • Do not overcomplicate the situation and delay action.
  • Measured risk-taking and action builds confidence.
  • Don’t let the future be dictated by the past.


“Measured risk-taking and action builds confidence.” –Bruce Rhoades


Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess

  • Deal with the situation, not the person. Acceptance of the person creates trust.
  • Ignoring a changing environment does not solve anything.
  • Know when to let others take the lead.
  • Sometimes a leader needs to give stern, unpopular advice.
  • Humor can reduce tension and create a more open atmosphere.