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The Currency of Authentic Leadership

I recently had lunch with a friend and sat listening to their story with a familiar sinking feeling. Sadly, the situation isn’t new; the frustration and irritation resulting from poor leadership is far too common.

A recurring thread woven through stories of poor leadership is the uncertainty created in followers.

Here’s the logic:

  • Poor leaders lack authentic relationships and connection

  • Lack of connection erodes trust

  • Eroded trust breaks down communication

  • Lack of communication prevents transparency

  • Lack of transparency breeds uncertainty

In a nutshell, poor leaders reject transparency.

A quick note on transparency: simply using the word “transparency” before sharing a piece of information doesn’t create a culture of transparency.

Transparency is messy. It is sometimes awkward. And by definition it is always present, whether leadership is up to it or not.

Transparency isn’t disclosing information when it is felt best to do so. Transparency is having open and real conversations where others feel comfortable enough to speak up, respectfully ask questions, receive full answers, and potentially offer thoughts that counter the current leadership position.

Do you know what lack of transparency ultimately creates?


Fear of wondering what’s really going on.

Fear of wondering whether today will be the day of being blindsided by punishment or embarrassment due to lack of clear expectations.

Fear of feeling unsupported and unappreciated because of inconsistency of processes and accountability.

Fear of feeling like a pawn being manipulated for the benefit of the system rather than a person who matters.

When transparency is lacking, fear steps in to fill in the information gaps and it always assumes the worst.

Very rarely does good come from fear.

Fear is what happens in the absence of transparency.

To be clear, authentic leaders deal with fear, too. All leaders do. The difference is how it is handled.

Authentic leaders don’t box up fear to “protect” others. They sit with it. They struggle with it. They expose themselves to it despite trembling in their proverbial boots.

And then they act.

Here’s the best part - they don’t act alone.

They act WITH others.

They share the situation, they struggle to wrap language around their thoughts and perceptions, and they open themselves up to input and potential retaliation fear can cause.

Authentic leaders allow the rawness of transparency to undergird the foundation of true success.

The currency of authentic leadership is transparency.

The currency of inauthentic leadership is fear.

What’s your currency?


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