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5 Qualities of Authentic Leadership

Grace Flack
  • Sep 06, 2019
  • 4 minute read

Listen to our podcast interview with Cynthia on authentic leadership


What makes a really good conference session? 

It keeps you awake? You don’t look at your watch the whole time? 

What about you leave feeling inspired to act? What if there is audience participation and a full room of engaged listeners? 

At Dude University 2019, our annual operations conference, Cynthia Berry’s session on Authentic Leadership for Women had all of the above. Cynthia Berry is Director of Enterprise Safety & Security, Center of Excellence, for Adtalem Global Education with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. 

Cynthia’s session was engaging, instructive and inspiring – and that’s why we want to share the highlights with you!  


Embracing the Real You as a Leader 

While Cynthia’s talk did focus on empowering women, it was applicable to anyone and everyone. No matter what type of leader you are, whether in your title or in that you have influence on others, this message is for you. 

So, how do you embrace who you really are and become an authentic leader? 

Cynthia revealed it starts with identifying the impact of the imposter syndrome on your life. She said that 70% of women and men experience this feeling of being inadequate or having self-doubt about their role. 

She encouraged listeners to leave the imposter syndrome behind and embrace their true selves by looking at the top qualities of authentic leadership. 


Top 5 Qualities of Authentic Leadership 

First off, what does it mean to be authentic? 

Bill George describes it this way in a Forbes article

"People of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organizations … who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their core values who have the courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their service to society." 

How does one start their journey to more authentic leadership? 


Here are the five ways you can embrace authenticity in your leadership: 

1. Understand Your Purpose  

Feel confident in understanding why you do what you do.  

Answering these questions may help: 

  • What is your why? 

  • What were you created to do? 

  • What do you enjoy doing? 

  • What is your passion? 

  • If money were no factor, what would you be doing? 

This may lead to writing out a why statement for your life and work to help guide you. 

Learn more about finding your why in this TED Talk from Simon Sinek. 


2. Lead with Heart 

Start with your passion. Start with what convicts you about the world. 

Answering these questions may help: 

  • What matters in life to you? 

  • Who is important to you? 

  • What causes are you attracted to? 

  • What do you want to do to improve the world, your community? 

These answers can help you focus in on what really matters to you and how you want to create positive change in the world, your community and your workplace. 


3. Demonstrate Self-Discipline 

To be an effective and authentic leader, you must embrace self-discipline – a muscle we’re all constantly flexing.


Here are some ways to help improve your self-discipline: 

  • Create time management strategies (use tools/technology to help manage your time) 

  • Have goals and objectives for your work and team 

  • Have strategic plans – 1-, 5-, 10-year plans 

  • Focus on less dysfunction, more function 

  • Eat well 

  • Sleep/rest well 

  • Exercise well 


4. Practice Solid Values 

Strive to be a person and leader who knows your values and lives them out.  

People want to follow and be like others who have strong values and stay true to them. 

Some of the top values in good leaders include: 

  • Respect 

  • Dignity 

  • Honor 

  • Ethics 

  • Truthfulness 

  • Generosity 

  • Principles 

What values are most important to you and your organization? Knowing those can help guide you to aligning your values and living them out in your leadership role. 


5. Establish Connected Relationships 

People and relationships are a critical part of authentic leadership, so it’s good to take an inventory of your workplace relationships. 

Do you value others and show that? Do you have a mentor? Are you mentoring someone? 

Some points to remember: 

  • People need people 

  • Women and men may need people differently – that’s OK 

  • Family, friends, community, colleagues – these relationships are all important to foster 

If you can spend time evaluating and taking steps to improve these five qualities then you’ll be on your way to being an authentic and effective leader. 


Listen to our podcast interview with Cynthia on authentic leadership

Learn even more in our podcast interview with Cynthia and check out the slides from her presentation. Registration for Dude University 2020 is now open, so make sure to grab your spot

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