New research: Communication is crucial in creating authentic leaders who generate trust

differentCorporate collapse and lack of trust has led to a demand for a different type of leader. The old style of charismatic leadership is not sustainable and has spawned cultures in which there is an abdication of responsibility or inertia among followers. This has created some spectacular falls from grace – the column inches generated by the demise of The Co-operative Bank’s Paul Flowers is probably the most high-profile example of late.

Being an authentic leader is about more than personal authenticity. Someone can be an authentic person without being an authentic leader. Research I carried out as part of my Master’s dissertation at Oxford Brookes Business school and with OmiliaHirst has shown that authentic leaders are those who make an active and wholehearted decision to step up to the responsibility of leadership and have a firm conviction that what they are doing is appropriate and right for the situation, context or environment they are in.

Being authentic ‘in role ‘ requires an ethical responsibility to other and to the organisation and society in which you are operating.  It’s an aspirational concept.

Our research has found that, for a leader to be experienced as authentic, they need to:

  • Be self-aware
  • Reveal aspects of themselves in a harmonious and measured way
  • Have moral conviction
  • Make clear choices based on a full understanding of self/other and situation
  • Build a bond of trust with the organisation and employees.
Making connections through communication

The capability to connect with followers is also key. A leader can do all of the above but, if they can’t connect, they are unlikely to be experienced as authentic.

Communication professionals in the organisation can help the leader connect and be experienced as authentic. They can set up channels, tell stories that reveal values in action and create dialogue opportunities. They can also craft messages that align with company values and they can provide leaders with data on employee engagement.

Coaching authentic leadership communication

Coaches can help, too, at a deeper and more personal level. They can work with leaders to help them develop their self-awareness, harmonise different aspects of themselves, weigh their decisions and test their conviction and commitment.

And when it comes to the crunch of how the leader communicates, again the coach can be crucial. Here, we are talking about far more than just polished presentation and rhetorical tricks. It’s about helping leaders to read and understand others in an emotionally intelligent way, create genuine dialogue, make appropriate personal disclosure, articulate and share their personal values and align their voice, body and breath with what they are saying.

If we want more authentic trusting environments, we need more authentic leaders who can connect with their organisations. Authentic leadership communication is the key. Leaders need to approach communication in a richer way in order to be – and be experienced as – authentic.

I carried out the research described in this blog post as part of my research study for my Masters in Coaching and in my work as a consultant with change and communication consultancy OmiliaHirst. To find out more about how OmiliaHirst can help build authentic leaders in your organisation, contact me.