How To Be an Authentic Leader in the 2020’s

For the last 25 years, I have had the privilege to interview CEOs and top leaders in organizations all around the world. From career coaching, leadership development, masterminding, and having a podcast, I’ve been able to see deep inside many leaders’ hearts and minds. I have heard their challenges, their fears, and how they have overcome obstacles to become great leaders.

When I worked in executive search and coaching, I remember many seemingly successful leaders share with me how they felt unfulfilled and empty, even though on the outside they had all the “signs” of success. They had followed a plan, but it wasn’t necessarily THEIR plan on what they truly wanted. They had lost touch with themselves, their passions, and were questioning if what they did even mattered. Many might call this a mid-life crisis, but I think it went deeper than that. They just didn’t feel like their life had meaning or a purpose.

Later with my podcast The Amazing Leader Series, many authentic leaders have shared their own personal growth journey to get to their mindset of creating great company cultures and using business as a force for good. It wasn’t as if they woke up one day and had all the answers. It took time and many mistakes along the way but one thing in common with all these great leaders is that they found a way to bring their personal growth journey into their companies. When they did this, their entire company benefited—the employees also experienced a transformation, which even spilled over to the customers, the suppliers, etc.

A leader’s personal growth journey impacts far more than just themselves.

Whether a leader chooses to be open about the shifts in their mindset or not is a personal choice. I recall interviewing Bobby Herrera, CEO of the Populous Group, who had a very deep-rooted purpose from a teenage experience, but he didn’t share his burning purpose with his team for ten years! The day he shared his purpose was “the day his company started to transform into a community.” (see video clip below)

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Weymiller, had a huge shift in his thinking when he attended a wedding, watching his friend walk down the aisle with his beautiful daughter and give her away to the groom. Bob realized that every single employee in his company was someone’s “precious child.” He realized that it was an honor and privilege to lead these people who were spending 40 hours a week at his company. They started to transform the business by implementing a truly caring culture. Bob found that “when people feel cared for, it profoundly affects how they care for others” because their relationships improve both at work and at home, and even their health improves! (see video clip below)

There is a positive ripple effect with the growth of the business when the leaders and employees can grow and develop together.

There are a few tips to step into the most authentic, best version of yourself as a leader that I’ve learned from these leadership giants.

  1. Know Your Purpose – we all have gifts, talents, and skills that we can bring to the workplace. As a leader, your job is to share the vision of the company and inspire others to go on that journey. When you have your own personal purpose, that will give you the internal motivation to drive that vision forward and be unstoppable.
  2. Align Your Purpose with Your Work– this is when it gets fun because when your purpose is aligned with your work, it is an accelerator for both you and your company. Every person should have this as a goal because it leads to a very fulfilling joyful life.
  3. Be of Service to Others – we often hear the term Servant Leadership which sums up the shift in focus from “service to self” to “service to others.” In general, I’ve seen this shift come as someone gets older and wants to start giving back. When a leader can share their experience and have a purpose that incorporates helping others along their journey, they tend to be admired, respected, and inspire people to want to go above and beyond…in other words, high engagement, high performance, and highly productive!
  4. Create More Leaders – a great leader helps to develop others to be leaders as well. Amazing leaders see the potential in others and draw it out or help them to develop and step into their own greatness. It’s not about followers but rather creating great leaders around you!
  5. Be Authentic, Trusting, and Caring – be true to yourself, know your values, have integrity to stand up for what you believe in and for others. Know your strengths and capitalize on them and have others compensate for your weaknesses in order to build strong teams. It is OK as a leader to not have all the answers! Trust yourself and others. Rely on your people to bring you great ideas—and give them credit for it when they do! Be humble and truly care for your employees. Be generous with recognition and check in regularly with people just to see how they are doing. When you can do this authentically and with genuine trust and caring, it goes a long way!

Right now, we need leaders who truly care about people, who are trustworthy, have high integrity, and who understand how to use business as a force for good. Those are the leaders that are going to thrive…and their companies will thrive along with them! There is a huge return on investment in your own personal growth journey. Don’t ever underestimate that!

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Here are two short clips from interviews on The Amazing Leader Series. Register here to have access to both the full interviews as well as many other great interviews.

Clip with Bobby Hererra, CEO Populous Group

Clip with Bob Chapman, CEO Barry Wehmiller

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