“Authenticity” is one of the many new buzzwords of leadership today, along with “humility” “trust” and “self-awareness”. By definition, “authenticity” refers to the ability to be “real”, or people who are described as: possessing “a number of common characteristics that show they are psychologically mature and fully functioning as human beings.”*
In our rapidly changing global and digital society, our affinity with technology offers us immediacy of information. This online world can look pretty superficial at times. Fake versus real news, celebrity worship and spin, have all driven people to increasingly seek greater purpose in themselves and others.
Our customers and clients have always wanted to do business with someone they trust and value. That bit really is a no brainer but its priority as a factor influencing consumer buying patterns has certainly risen over time.
In a recent study of 1000 UK adults by the Future Foundation, almost 50 per cent chose “personal fulfilment” as their main priority in life, over 50 per cent more than selected it 20 years ago.**
Where does authenticity fit in for the small business owner then?
Business owners who are committed to developing and presenting their “real” self, and encourage this leadership style in their supervisors and managers, will increase their employee engagement. Strong evidence supports this.***
An authentic work culture, where honesty and transparent communication are lived and breathed throughout the business, will drive a backbone of trust and loyalty. This, in turn, will increase customer service.****
All this contributes revenue growth and reduced staff turnover.
How do we make it happen?
As always, this reality must start at the top.
Communicating openly, freely and often with staff
“You want to be yourself—but with care,” Brooke Vuckovic from The Kellog School of Management says.*****
Seeking regular feedback on process and behaviours and the business owner’s leadership style, all assist to create an authentic environment. Utilising positive, honest communication with open listening is essential.
Self reflect and develop
When business owners invest in themselves, they are also investing in their business, people and products. Through developing their own coaching and leadership skills, they can better learn from mistakes. Humility is a driving trait of authentic leader.
For the time poor small business owner, accessing articles and relevant programs on the internet is a quick and easy way to find useful reflective materials.
Create a values-based workplace
Modern day employees want to work in an environment that aligns with their own values. Involving staff in the process of developing values and the behaviours associated, will assist in driving a culture of authenticity.
Promote the business purpose to customers and clients through the behaviours that leaders exhibit and uphold
Through living and behaving authentically, leaders in business are in part showing customers their true self. However, as Mohan Sawhney says, “Ask not how you can sell, but how you can help.”******
Remaining in regular contact with customers where possible, via email, newsletters and or, promotions allows the small business to further emphasise the authenticity of brand and purpose. Performed with innovation, customers can then feel that they have a real relationship with this brand.
Authenticity of leadership and culture isn’t simple to achieve but can have lasting impact on business. Importantly it is a future trend that is growing in momentum.
Lexie Wilkins, Culture and Employee-Engagement Expert and Director, Lexie Wilkins Consulting