How do I lead with authenticity


May 14, 2019

More than 12,000 young workers were asked about their attitudes towards the workplace in the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018. The results are alarming: young talents are increasingly losing confidence in their managers and loyalty to their employers has also fallen. The demand is growing louder that companies and their managers take on social responsibility and do more for their own employees. But what does leadership look like that can meet these expectations? Researchers agree that it is authentic.

The 4 characteristics of authentic leadership

In times of ecological and social difficulties, what constitutes a good manager is redefined. The desire for more responsibility and authenticity in leadership seems to be greater than ever. We asked around what authentic leadership really means and identified four central elements.

# 1 making sense

Authentic leadership means giving meaning to entrepreneurial activity. In the documentary “Silent Revolution” on the cultural change in the world of work it says: “We have gained a lot of know-how in the past. But we've lost the know-why! ”Managers should try to answer the following questions for themselves: What do we do what we do for? What added value does our actions bring? What traces do I want to leave behind as a manager?

# 2 "Practice what you preach!"

Authentic managers know about their ethical and moral standards and act accordingly. The consistency between word and deed has a decisive influence on whether managers are perceived as authentic by their employees. Studies have shown that managers who demand a solution-oriented communication style from their employees and who actually practice one themselves are described as extremely authentic (and trustworthy). Subsequently, the employees also showed themselves to be extremely keen to speak and think in a solution-oriented manner.

# 3 cooperation

"The best managers are those who help their teams succeed." Authentic managers live an attitude of respect, appreciation and cooperation. You actively appreciate the contribution of each individual member, see in each employee the potential for further development and offer the necessary support. Errors are seen as an important part of innovation. When employees see that managers are genuinely committed to the well-being of the group, then they perform extremely well.

# 4 reflection

Authentic leadership does not simply mean leading as one is “knitted”. On the contrary: Authentic managers constantly reflect on themselves and look for ways to gain clarity about their own personality, needs, values ​​and behaviors. They consult people who have a completely different point of view - even if this initially opposes their own - they ask their surroundings for feedback and implement it constructively.

What happens when authenticity is practiced in the company?

The Industry 4.0 context calls for management styles that create security and stability. Authentic leadership affects that in extreme situations Sense of security from employees. Because the team members know that they can rely on the honesty and goodwill of the manager. Studies show significant relationships between authentic leadership and extraordinary performance as well as the engagement of employees. Due to the stable relationship of trust, employees are also more honest with their superiors and reliably inform them about trouble spots in the organization.

Promising results were also obtained with regard to the current shortage of skilled workers: Authentic managers seem to be a magnet for highly qualified workers. But not just one Plus in sales and employer attractiveness can be recorded, including the sustainable loyalty of employees at their workplace is demonstrably increased. In addition, in teams in which authentic leadership behavior is practiced, fewer burnout symptoms and more physical and mental health be measured.

Managers who lead their employees as they would like to be led become a magnet for highly qualified millennials. The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 on the topic of Leadership 4.0 draws a clear conclusion:

"The message is clear: Young workers are eager for business leaders to be proactive about making a positive impact in society — and to be responsive to employees’ needs. "

Authentic leadership checklist

  • Creation of meaning: What is the point of my entrepreneurial activity? How do I communicate this sense to my employees?
  • "Practice what you preach": How closely do my words match my actions?
  • Cooperation: How much do I cooperate with my employees in a relationship of trust?
  • Reflection: How regularly do I get feedback on my leadership behavior?


Haas, K., Fladerer, M. P., & Nieberle, K .: Authentic Leadership - An Overview and Current Developments.