Effective business leaders follow different success strategies. They have different personalities, different management experiences, and different beliefs about how to best lead a team. But they tend to have one leadership trait in common: authenticity.
Leaders who practise authenticity are usually better placed to connect with and inspire their teams, encouraging employees to work collaboratively towards company goals.
Here, the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) expert and chief financial officer (CFO) Gary McGaghey shares five tips on how to become an authentic leader and the benefits this can reap for your business.
Research on the Importance of Authentic Leadership
Various studies highlight the value of authentic leadership. Two examples include:
- A study by researchers at the University of Nebraska, published in the Leadership & Organization Development Journal. This study revealed that the authenticity of a leader directly impacts employees’ attitudes to work. The study found that the strongest factor behind employee job satisfaction, work happiness, and organisational commitment is employees’ perception of how authentic their leaders are.
- Research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies demonstrates that leaders’ authenticity can positively impact employees’ job satisfaction, work engagement, and in-role performance.
With the importance of authenticity in mind, let’s explore McGaghey’s five steps to becoming an authentic leader.
1. Commit to Self-Improvement
While many leaders focus on how their teams can improve, authentic leaders focus on self-improvement, too. Leaders who are passionate about working on themselves — for instance, through leadership training — can often better support and guide their team.
Not only do these individuals lead by example and practise what they preach, but they also continuously learn how they can help those around them thrive.
2. Encourage Self-Awareness
According to the Harvard Business Review, the “best thing” a leader can do is become aware of what motivates them and their decision-making.
Leaders can reflect on their experiences, strengths, and areas for improvement to gain insights into their motivations, beliefs, and emotions. These insights can, in turn, help leaders open up to what motivates and drives others.
3. Work on Becoming More Disciplined as an Authentic Leader
Practising discipline can benefit many areas of a leader’s professional life and leadership approach. For example, leaders can make a conscious effort to check in with themselves as they complete daily tasks to ensure they’re building self-awareness and bringing this to their role.
Taking a disciplined approach to self-awareness can help leaders identify their strengths and limitations. With these in mind, leaders can develop a better understanding of their leadership style and grow as authentic leaders.
4. Focus on the Big Picture
A leadership role demands careful thought about the company as a whole, so leaders should avoid getting distracted by smaller tasks and processes that don’t contribute to the company’s overall operation.
Focusing on the company’s overarching mission can help leaders prioritise tasks and delegate where necessary.
5. Inspire Belief in the Team
When employees have faith in their leaders, they may be more motivated to put in efforts that contribute towards company goals. Authentic leaders can gain the trust of individuals in their team by:
- Valuing transparent communication.
- Acknowledging the valuable role that each individual plays in the team.
- Paying close attention to the drivers that motivate employees and rewarding individuals accordingly.
Inspiring belief in a team may also require leaders to take risks to solve challenges. Balanced yet necessary risk-taking can demonstrate to a team that its leader believes in the company’s mission, which can encourage team members to follow suit.
Practising Authentic Leadership
As more companies emphasise authenticity and transparency in their leadership teams, many find that strong, authentic leaders result in happier teams, richer business strategies, and better outcomes for all.
Wherever you are in your career as a leader, putting in the time and effort to improve your emotional intelligence and authentic leadership skills can see you, your team, and your company enjoy improved morale and productivity.
About Gary McGaghey
Gary McGaghey is the CFO of Williams Lea Tag, a €1.3 billion end-to-end marketing production and business services group. He has extensive experience in financial leadership roles and achieving M&A-driven and organic growth for listed, privately owned, and private equity companies. These global companies include those in the beverage, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceutical, and media industries.
In his current role with Williams Lea Tag, McGaghey oversees the execution of the group’s investment decisions and commercial strategies. Alongside this work, McGaghey is Fitmedia UK’s non-executive director. He is also a chartered accountant and a chartered management accountant.