What Is Authentic Leadership Style?

Authentic leadership style is what leaders employ when they believe authenticity is vital to fostering trust in the workplace.

Self-awareness, purpose, and relationships are authentic leader values. These values accomplish the following:

  • Acknowledges one’s humanity
  • Promotes open communication
  • Cultivates community

75% of team members desire “more authenticity at work.” An authentic leadership style helps achieve that.

Authentic leaders focus on creating a welcoming environment that encourages individuals to be themselves and promotes a positive climate at work.

What Are the 3 Main Qualities of an Authentic Leader?

Authentic leaders possess three main qualities:

1. Self-awareness: Authentic leaders understand they are human. They acknowledge their biases, blind spots, and imperfections—and more importantly, they take steps to manage them.

2. Purpose: Purpose is essential to authentic leaders. They seek to leverage their leadership position to drive meaningful interactions and results. Authentic leaders want to do the right thing and use this passion to steer teams in the right direction.

3. Relationships: Authentic leaders strive to form genuine connections. They share things about themselves and listen with intention. They desire to learn about team members to create a shared purpose and community.

Why Is Authentic Leadership Style Important in the Workplace?

Authentic leadership is essential because it does the following:

Promotes trust: To be authentic means to be true to yourself and your values. Actively practicing this genuineness develops trust. Other team members will see and feel your authenticity—they won’t think you’re putting up a front. Authenticity creates a sense of psychological safety and mutual respect.

Improves team morale: When team members’ concerns are heard and acknowledged, they feel like valued members of the team and company. Research notes that these individuals display higher levels of morale and performance.

Builds an inclusive culture: Studies illustrate that authentic leadership can promote inclusivity in the workplace. Authentic leaders encourage team members to voice their thoughts and contribute diverse ideas. Even if they consider some ideas unconventional, authentic leaders are open to testing them.

Boosts engagement: When people are trusted to go beyond their comfort zone and have a shared purpose, they’re more committed to achieving team and business goals. People are inspired to put their best foot forward and grow to their full potential alongside others. Deloitte reports that 93% of organizations agree that “a sense of belonging” propels performance.

What Are Some Best-Use Cases for Authentic Leadership Style?

Authentic leadership style can be beneficial across various types of leadership positions. The pivotal question is when to use it.

Overall, authentic leadership thrives in circumstances where more connection, community, and care are needed.

Here are examples of best-use cases:

  • Team members feel disconnected from one another and you want to find a way to bridge the gaps and create a shared purpose.
  • Staff members feel isolated from management, and management seeks to show they’re willing to climb down into the trenches and work alongside the staff.
  • With high turnover at their business, management decides to have 1:1 conversations with team members to identify patterns and make the necessary adjustments to company culture.

manager and team member looking at folder and phone

How Do You Practice Authentic Leadership in the Workplace?

You can proactively drive authentic leadership in the workplace using five key methods. These tactics are excellent for using on yourself and your team members.

1. Practice Self-Awareness

Self-aware leaders exhibit the following traits:

  • They ask for feedback from team members: Authentic leaders constantly seek to better themselves. Begin by initiating 360-degree feedback on yourself and the team. This feedback offers insights into how your behaviors and actions affect those around you. Conducting 360-degree surveys across all team members helps everyone collectively assess their strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, it helps individuals make the correct adjustments to drive better, more authentic interactions.
  • They take accountability: Authentic leaders understand they’re human and make mistakes. Authentic leaders take responsibility for their actions. What perhaps makes authentic leadership most challenging is a person’s ability to be vulnerable. Authentic leaders know vulnerability is the key to unlocking meaningful and productive relationships. They dare to open up first so that team members feel comfortable doing the same.

2. Uphold Transparency

Authentic leaders aren’t people-pleasers; they understand this does more harm than good. Transparency is at the heart of what they do and may entail the following:

  • Delivering company news: There are no hidden agendas in authentic leadership. Authentic leaders view team members as integral members of the organization. They make sure they keep staff updated on all company matters whenever and wherever they can.
  • Initiating difficult conversations: Whether delivering negative performance feedback or mediating conflict between staff members, authentic leaders can facilitate difficult conversations. They don’t sugarcoat. Instead, they focus on having an honest and direct dialogue to resolve disputes productively.

3. Identify and Advocate Values


Authentic leaders understand their own values as well as those of their team. They even identify similar values among the group to encourage individuals to practice them at work.

You can initiate this by sharing your values during a team meeting and encouraging team members to voice their values. Provide examples of values or ask team members to reflect on a series of questions before the meeting to initiate a productive discussion.


Good leaders encourage team members not to compromise their ethics and to establish boundaries when necessary. Boundary establishment upholds individuals’ mutual respect and the values they strive to maintain.

Simply put, authentic leaders can develop team members who are each other’s advocates. Discuss establishing boundaries in the workplace. What type of situation merits setting boundaries? How should team members speak up?

These are areas to review and help individuals advocate for their values.

4. Be Sure to Align Actions with Values

Consistency is critical to authentic leadership. An authentic leader carries an internalized moral compass that ensures they make decisions aligned with their beliefs.

The next time you take a specific action or make a decision, think about whether it aligns with your values—the values you and your team members have discussed.

For example, if a leader values work-life balance and aims to incorporate it into their team, they may encourage team members to

  • Log off at a specific time each day.
  • Use their PTO hours by the end of the year.
  • Take their lunch breaks.
  • Prioritize their well-being by going for walks or taking a mental-health day.

Alternatively, the authentic leader will not

  • Encourage team members to work overtime.
  • Interrupt individuals during their lunch breaks to discuss a work matter.
  • Promote work schedules that disregard family obligations or medical issues.

These actions would contradict the leader’s words, demonstrating a lack of authenticity.

5. Don’t Force Authenticity

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. To refrain from forcing authenticity, reflect upon the purpose behind a specific action, project, or initiative. Is the purpose connected to something bigger than yourself? Does it positively impact those around you? Is it reflective of your core values?

When roughly 70% of individuals express that “they define their purpose through work,” being intentional, conscientious, and honest should be front and center.

Turn to a Leadership Expert

For more guidance, look into CMOE’s Leadership Development Workshops. Our workshops provide customized leadership training to drive real change.