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Authentic Leadership

Why it Starts With the Question, “Are You For Real?!”

As you know by now my book title is "Are You For Real?!” I get questions from people asking, how did I come up with this title?

Generally after speaking to a group, I end up accepting audience members who become clients on a one to one basis. When I go through the intake process, I ask questions, and one of them has to do with being AUTHENTIC. It boils down to this question, “Are You For Real?!”

In other words, do you really believe the bull shtiq you are telling me or to yourself? I find that people think they are for real but in reality they are not.

Little did I know I was a trend setter. These days there is a forming theory on Authentic Leadership, based on a book written about 16 years ago by the same name, and I read the findings and think, “That’s exactly what I’ve been coaching clients on for years!”

Basically, Authentic Leadership theory focuses on five key attributes that make people authentic in how they lead their team. In reality, this can apply to anyone, even if they aren’t in charge of others. We all are responsible to lead, even if that means leading your own life. And folks, that is the foundation for success no matter where we want to get in our careers.

Before I get into it, let’s be clear what we mean by “real” or “authentic.” It’s not about saying whatever you’re thinking, whenever you’re thinking it. That’s immature, and in business and life in general, will cost you relationships and money.

Authentic people act according to what they truly believe in, and it takes years to get good at understanding what that belief is, really. They do measure their words carefully because they are considerate of their impact on others. This awareness is what leads to their success, as these attributes will outline.


Ah, this is a tough one for people to answer. What am I hoping to achieve? What’s my purpose, and where do I want it to take me? Nail this one down and you will never need an alarm clock in the morning. So, get clear on it.

Often I work by asking these and related questions, and it’s important to push through this process. Many of my clients withdraw, perhaps in fear or perhaps out of laziness. It’s work, but it’s crucial to getting the right answers for you. Start talking and exploring what it is in life that sets you on fire, and creates a passion for you. Purposeful people are passionate people, and they are also irresistible. Passion is contagious, and it draws out the best in others as they sense your direction and want to be a part of it.


Everyone has lines they won’t cross, and ideals they are guided by. The question is how these values shape your decisions, big and little, every day. People who stay true to their values behave in a consistent manner, whether they are talking to a big client or their mailman, and it’s this consistency that helps them build relationships, and more importantly, the right relationships.


Which leads us to those relationships. Authentic relationships are built on trust, integrity and a willingness to listen to the other party’s concerns in order to maintain and build on the relationships. Authentic people really understand that being connected to others isn’t about how many posts they put out on social media, but the number of opportunities they have to serve others in a way that serves everyone. It can also mean standing your ground and explaining honestly when an answer needs to be no, or when something isn’t right. Remember, it’s your best friends who will tell you there’s a piece of food stuck in your teeth.


Keeping your goals in mind, it takes focus and self-discipline to achieve them. Life is never as you’ve planned, and it’s how you react in situations that weren’t expected that determine your success. People who have great self-discipline are also consistent - they don’t overreact, or suddenly change their personality when the pressure is on. Dealing with such people in business is far easier and attractive than someone who is unpredictable.


I’ve talked a lot about authentic communication and the importance of listening v. talking and these are all by-products of having heart. Showing real concern and compassion in dealing with people is so rare, that people are truly taken aback when they experience it. Ever been put on hold and listen to a recording tell you you’re important? Compare that to a real person who takes charge of your question and gets you an answer to your problem, quickly. That’s unforgettable, and you’re likely to not simply remain as a customer, but to tell others about the caring service you received.

Leaders are made, and authentic leaders work hard to make themselves effective and successful. Their success isn’t measured simply by the work they do, but what their team does because of their leadership. John Maxwell, who is an excellent teacher for leadership and a mentor, perhaps put it best: “Leaders KNOW the way, GO the way and SHOW the way.”

So, I’ll ask again....”Are You For REAL?”