5 key thoughts on authentic leadership

Authentic leadership. Now there's a term you hear quite often — and for good reason. 

Research has shown authentic leadership is the single strongest predictor of an employee's job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and workplace happiness.

But if authenticity were as easy as "just be yourself" or "bringing your whole self to work," there wouldn't be more than 1,000 books written about how to master it. Or would there?

Bryan Bennett, seasoned educator, healthcare futurist and founder and executive director for the Healthcare Center of Excellence, joined Becker's Healthcare's CEO + CFO Forum Aug. 11 to demystify authentic leadership. Here are a few key takeaways from Mr. Bennett's session: 

1. Authentic leadership is not necessarily easy. "It sounds easy, but to be an authentic leader, you have to know yourself and be yourself," said Mr. Bennett. This requires time, experience, reflection and a great deal of honesty with oneself. 

2. Self-assessments and peer assessments are key methods for leaders to better understand themselves and adapt their leadership philosophy based on those learnings. "People can detect inauthenticity easily. If you're faking it, you're not going to make it. So it's important to understand who you are and apply that in your leadership strategy," said Mr. Bennett. He recommends completing a peer assessment once a year. 

3. You should aim to know your leadership philosophy inside and out. "When I interview leaders, I'm really impressed by the ones who I consider are good leaders in that when I ask what their leadership vision is, they can tell me right on the spot," said Mr. Bennett. "You have to know what your leadership is and you have to practice it every day. When the best leaders wake up in the morning, they say, 'Okay, now how am I going to best lead today?' You don't go into the office, saying, 'Okay, well, I'm here now. Okay. What's going to happen? I don't know.'"

4. Reflection is key to building authenticity, so make it part of your routine. "I've talked to leaders and they say, 'Oh yeah. Once a year, I sit down and reflect on my year.'" I say you've got to do it more than that. You have to do that every day," said Mr. Bennett. The higher a leader excels in an organization, the more important reflection becomes. "And it doesn't take that much time. If you're doing it daily, you can take 15, 20 minutes and just sit down and think about things and jot a couple notes down that you can refer back to later on." 

5. Authentic leaders still seek guidance and advice. As much as authentic leadership stems from self-awareness and self-understanding, it is hardly a solitary endeavor. "So many times, especially the higher up you get into an organization, people don't feel they need advice," said Mr. Bennett. "I think that's important to have a sounding board."

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