Are they an authentic leader, or just an emotional sneezer?
In today’s leadership discourse, the term “authentic leadership” is ubiquitous. Understandably, people are seeking leaders who embody a more personal and humane approach – individuals who grasp the complexities of life, the struggle of burnout, and the importance of genuine connections that inspire trust.
However, the word ‘authenticity’ is often misused. At times it becomes a scapegoat, enabling unprofessional behaviour, insensitivity, stubbornness, excessive vulnerability, and oversharing. It seems to grant leaders a license to unload their opinions, thought spirals, and emotions onto colleagues. At Ivy House we like to call this to ’emotional sneezing’: you wouldn’t come into work with a cold and start sneezing on the people around you – similarly, we shouldn’t be bringing our negative moods into the workplace, emotionally contaminating the environment, all under the banner of authenticity.
It is likely that someone came to mind when reading that; do you think they are aware of the impact they are having on those around them? And if you are completely honest, how aware are you of your own impact?
‘Authentic leadership’ should not be used to excuse a superficial display of one’s ever-changing moods and opinions, in the name of being “real”. Instead, it should involve a deeper alignment with one’s true self: understanding personal values, untangling unconscious programming, and discovering our own unique leadership style. Then, the next crucial step is to combine this self-awareness with skill – the ability to engage the conscious mind, approach each situation as a courageous learner, and take full ownership of the impact your presence has in any given setting. An effective leader acknowledges that their impact is entirely within their control and should not be overshadowed by passing moods or emotions.
Such leaders are indeed authentic, but they also lead consciously and purposefully. Their authenticity is driven by self-awareness, intentional choices, and a focus on personal growth and development.
By reevaluating the meaning of authenticity in leadership, we can foster a culture where leaders prioritise aligning their values, developing their skills, and owning the impact they have on others. This recalibration promotes a more grounded and impactful leadership approach, contributing to healthier work environments and ultimately enhancing organisational success. If you are ready to adopt a healthy and effective style of leadership, or want to know how you can transform your organisation’s culture to unleash authentic potential, start a conversation with us today.