Having been very blessed with the opportunity of over the past 30 years travelling the world and working with leaders from across the globe and from various industries, political affiliations, sport, church and NGO’s I have, what I believe, identified the most powerful characteristics that I have seen manifested in authentic leaders. I have not listed these characteristics in any order of priority as I believe they are all equally as important as the other.

  • Self-Awareness/ Conscious Leaders

Authentic leaders are very aware of who they are. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They are aware of their own thoughts and beliefs and do not spend time on thoughts that do not empower them. They do not distort facts or deny truth. They do not manipulate for self-gain. They live in the present and enjoy the present. As a result, they are in-tune with the feelings of others and what the moment is requiring of them. Because conscious leaders are aware of themselves, they make decisions that allow them to change, grow and develop.

  • Self-Confident

Authentic leaders exude confidence. This is a humble self-belief that they experience deep within their souls. As a result, they do not have a need to prove themselves to others. They are not looking for others to approve of their actions or opinions and can therefore be true to themselves. This self-confidence allows these leaders to be vulnerable, they can admit their weaknesses and mistakes and do not try to cover them up. They learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. They do not spend time comparing themselves to others and competing with others. Rather, they compete with themselves and are continuously looking for ways to improve and grow.

  • Happy

They are genuinely happy. Because they are continuously growing and contributing, they experience a continuous flow of the serotonin hormone. Serotonin is known as the “feel-good hormone” due to its role in regulating mood, appetite and sleep. Authentic leaders underst and the importance of pro-social behaviour and therefore spend a considerable amount of their time contributing to the growth and development of others. Because of their level of self-confidence, they do not feel threatened by others and are therefore able to empower people.

  • Purposeful

Authentic leaders live their lives on purpose. They know why they are here on this planet. Life has a deeper meaning for them. They are not driven by bottom-line targets and figures but by their reason for being. As a result, they feel real, deep and authentic connection to themselves, others and their source. They are not living in fear. Fear of what others think of them, fear of loss of control, fear of security. Their security is intrinsic. It comes from a deep self-belief, faith, self-confidence and self-worth.

  • Values Led

Emotional intelligence has been defined as, “the ability to manage self and our relationships with others so that we can live our intentions/values.” Authentic leaders are consciously aware of what they value and therefore continuously live their values. This results in them trusting, loving, accepting, and respecting themselves as people of worth. Their decisions and actions are fed by their values. They are true to themselves.

  • Vision Focused

Authentic leaders have a vision for their life. They wake up in the mornings with a clear objective of what they want to achieve for the day. Each winning experience is moving them towards their vision. They take clear, well-strategized actions that build their self-confidence. They ensure that these actions are aligned with their values, therefore, building their self-worth.

Authentic leaders are continuously growing their self-confidence and self-worth. Because they have these as part of their character, they give them in leadership. You just know when you are in the presence of authentic leadership – Confident, humble, assured, focused, caring, present, happy, fulfilled, real, determined, giving, at peace, wise. 

I realise that these leaders are very scarce indeed. Leadership training is mostly focused on leadership skills and not leadership character. I personally believe that unless we develop leadership character the world will continue to pay the price of inept, unconscious, egotistical and narcissistic so-called leaders.

Dave Boreham
International and professional executive coach, speaker, trainer, author, entrepreneur, family man and a citizen of humanity who draws together capacities, talents and dreams and drives them into a unified force for change and growth in people and organisations.