Robin Sharma, author of 'The Saint, The Surfer and The CEO', has a top 10 list of what authentic leaders do on a regular basis.
Here's his list, with my liberal interpretations of what it looks like to do these things.
1. They speak their truth.
While sometimes hard, in the long run it is simpler to be true to ourselves than to operate in "say what people want to hear" mode. Be brutally honest when it's not hurtful to others, and if it might be, be diplomatic, but don't avoid giving feedback or providing information that's necessary. But say what needs to be said. At the very minimum, you know you've done your part and the ball is in someone else's court, which is far more liberating than playing the "I wish I would have said..." game.
2. They lead from the heart.
Never forget who you are and where you came from. Help others to progress. Share information, be kind, and don't be a boss only through your title and authority but be a leader through mentoring and growing others. Be tough when you need to be, but with kindness. And cut a little slack sometimes. Nobody is on their game 24/7.
I've found that what seems to work well for me and my direct reports is we all treat each other like co-workers. Everyone has their area of expertise and everyone is allowed to make their case and champion their cause. While I might be ultimately responsible, I don't make the final decisions "because I'm the boss." While I have been taken advantage of on the very rare occasion, I'd like to think that my current and former employees appreciate my open and authentic approach.
3. They have rich moral fibre.
Talk about your values and walk the talk of your values. And if you don't know what your values are, figure it out but I suggest you start with respect and integrity. Again, your position on the org chart means nothing if you waffle on values or only walk the talk when things are going well.
The true test of character is what you do when no one is looking, or when no one will know what options you had. Do right as often as you can, and don't be the person who only does right when everyone will know about it. Sometimes you just need to shut up and pay it forward.
4. They are courageous.
Something I'd wished I'd learned a long time ago is: It's not a popularity contest!
Do what needs to be done even if people won't "get it" until later, if at all ever. No matter what you do, now matter how great people think it is, you will never have everyone thinking you are great.
So have the courage to do what's good for the business or to make the tough choices and it will pay off in spades in the long run.
5. They build teams and create communities.
Help people out by connecting them with folks in your network, whether this is inside your organization or outside where appropriate. In today's environment of doing less with more, helping each other out and sharing information is much easier than unnecessarily reinventing the wheel. Again, only share and connect where appropriate, or you could find yourself on the receiving end of a courageous conversation about moral fibre.
Also, keep things light, keep things fun, and make the working environment a working community. Work friendships boost employee morale and puts glue on seats from a teamwork and retention standpoint.
6. They deepen themselves.
Figure out who you are, what makes you tick, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and who you want to be. If you don't know who you are, how can you be authentic and be your best self?
7. They are dreamers.
Don't get stuck in the "this is they way we always did things" rut. Focus on opportunities, efficiencies, and "what if"s. Have a vision of how things can be and strive to take things there. Even if you think you can only get part of the way there, it's better to shoot for the moon and land in the stars.
8. They care for themselves.
This is the part where I sing the virtues of healthy living. Good food, exercise, stress reduction, regular check-ups, plenty of rest... And this is the part where I speak my authentic truth and say that for the most part, I do this. But not all the time. Things get out of balance and then some aspect of healthy living goes off the rails. So when things get crazy, at the very least, try to be kind to yourself.
9. They commit to excellence rather than perfection.
Another one of my life lessons: Perfection leads to procrastination.
Sometimes, C+ is good enough. No one will know except for you that it's not an A+ in your mind. They will probably think it's an A. I have a colleague who I respect very much, and he always says, "If you can't get it done in 90 days, don't bother." Another colleague who is also a genius says "Get it pretty much right and get it done. Tweak it up on the next time around."
While I don't advocate cutting corners on the important things, especially where you will be opening you or your company up to legal or financial exposure, get the balance right and know when to "Just Do It" and be comfortable with C+ being out there in the world rather than A+ only in your mind.
10. They leave a legacy.
Who did you mentor? Whose life changed because you helped them or believed in them? Who feels a little bit better about themselves because you were a cheerleader to them? It's about what people remember about you and how you made them feel.
Being real about yourself and others and knowing by giving to others, you aren't taking away from yourself is what authentic leadership is all about.