Leading by Example: Cultivating Authenticity in the C-Suite

“If you do not lead by example, you cannot expect your team to follow.”

― Sri Amit Ray, Power of Exponential Mindset for Success and Leadership

There’s the boss who tells everyone else to stay late but then leaves promptly at 5:00 p.m.

There’s the manager who emphasizes the importance of teamwork yet regularly takes credit for the team’s collective achievements.

There’s the CFO who proposes layoffs to cut unnecessary spending, then shows off her new Tesla in the company parking lot.

Scenarios like these breed a culture of cynicism and disengagement within an organization. A leader who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk doesn’t inspire loyalty or motivation. When there’s a disconnect between what leaders say and what they do, it breaks down respect and trust among those they work with.

Leading by example, on the other hand, means consistency in words and actions. It means aligning your public statements with your private behaviors and making decisions that reflect the values you advocate for. Executives that lead by example are genuine, transparent, and consistent in their actions and values.  This, in turn, fosters a culture where employees feel respected, trusted, and empowered to follow suit.

So, what does it mean to lead by example and cultivate authenticity within the C-suite? How can executives ensure that they are modeling their organization’s core values?

The Importance of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the first and perhaps most important step toward authentic leadership.

Authentic leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses. They reflect on their values and motivations, ensuring their actions align with what they truly believe in.

Assessments designed to measure leadership styles and personality qualities are a straightforward way of improving self-awareness. At Arden Coaching, our executive coaching programs begin with a rigorous assessment panel to gain insights into your leadership strengths, weaknesses, communication style, and emotional intelligence.

Assessments like these are valuable tools because they provide objective data that leaders might not be able to see on their own. By using assessments such as the Hogan Assessment, DISC, or EQ-i 2.0® Assessment,  leaders can obtain a clearer picture of how they are perceived by others, as well as identify their own behavioral patterns and personality traits.

Whether leaders choose to learn about themselves through assessments or through more qualitative measures, it serves as a strong foundation for effective growth.

Here’s why it’s so important:

  • Better Decision-Making: Self-aware leaders are more conscious of their thought processes and are therefore better equipped to make informed decisions. Understanding their motivations and the factors influencing their decisions allows them to avoid biases and choose actions that align with their values and goals.
  • Enhanced Leadership Skills: Leaders who are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses can lead more effectively. They can leverage their strengths to their advantage while recognizing areas where they might need support or development. This self-knowledge helps in assigning tasks, building teams, and setting realistic goals.
  • Improved Relationships: Self-awareness affects how a leader interacts with others. By understanding their own emotional triggers and responses, leaders can manage their emotions more effectively, fostering healthier and more productive professional relationships. This awareness also helps them to empathize with others, an essential trait for building trust and engagement within a team.
  • Increased Adaptability: Leaders who regularly reflect on their actions and seek feedback are better able to adapt to changes. They can adjust their leadership style to meet new challenges and are more open to learning and growth, which is crucial in today’s fast-paced world.
  • Authenticity: At the heart of self-awareness is authenticity. Leaders who truly understand and accept themselves are more likely to act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs. This authenticity inspires confidence and trust in their leadership, as team members and stakeholders recognize the genuineness in their actions and decisions.
  • Proactive Growth: Self-awareness leads to proactive personal and professional development. Leaders who understand their areas of improvement are more likely to seek out opportunities for growth, such as training, mentoring, and coaching. This not only enhances their capabilities but also sets a positive example for continuous learning within their teams.

Self-awareness among leaders can lead to a more mindful, cohesive, and dynamic workplace environment: and it’s the perfect way to lead by example.

Embrace Transparency

Transparency in leadership goes hand-in-hand with self-awareness. When you’re self-aware, you understand your motivations and the impact your actions have on others. This self-knowledge fuels transparency by giving you the confidence to be genuine and open in your communication.

Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, succinctly emphasized the value of this approach in his reflection on leadership:

“I think the currency of leadership is transparency. You’ve got to be truthful. I don’t think you should be vulnerable every day, but there are moments where you’ve got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.”

– Howard Schultz, Former CEO of Starbucks

Sharing information readily, explaining decisions clearly, and being truthful about challenges fosters trust with your team and models resilience. Employees appreciate leaders who keep them informed, even when the news isn’t always positive. Transparency demonstrates respect for their intelligence and allows them to feel invested in the organization’s success.

Transparency is also a two-way street: it creates a safe space for open communication. When leaders are transparent, it encourages employees to provide honest feedback. This feedback is invaluable for identifying blind spots, improving decision-making, and fostering a culture of continuous learning.

Lead With Purpose and Integrity

Leading by example is also about leading with purpose and integrity. For the sake of thoroughness, let’s define those two terms in the context of leadership:

  • Purpose: This goes beyond just profitability. It’s the “why” behind your organization’s existence. What positive impact do you strive to make?  A strong purpose provides direction and inspires employees.  Authentic leaders are passionate about their organization’s mission and can articulate it in a way that resonates with their team.  This shared vision fosters a sense of meaning and motivates employees to contribute their best work. We love Simon Sinek’s insightful comments on the topic.
  • Integrity: This is the alignment between your stated values and your actions. It’s about being honest and having strong moral principles – walking the walk, as we’ve mentioned. Leaders with integrity hold themselves accountable to the same high standards they expect from their team. They make ethical decisions, even when it’s difficult. This earns them the trust and respect of their employees.

So, how do purpose and integrity relate to authenticity and leading by example?

Authenticity requires both purpose and integrity. When leaders are truly passionate about their organization’s mission, it shows in their actions and words. They can’t fake it. This genuineness inspires trust and motivates employees to follow suit.

Leading by example is about embodying purpose and integrity. It’s not enough to tell your team to be innovative or ethical. You have to demonstrate these qualities yourself. By consistently making decisions that align with your stated values, you set the tone for the entire organization and encourage others to do the same.

When leaders combine these qualities, they create a work environment where employees feel valued, empowered, and inspired to contribute their best.

Empower Yourself and Your Team

Empowerment is about taking concrete steps to create an environment where everyone feels trusted, valued, and capable of reaching their full potential.

Other than fostering a positive company culture, a great way to achieve this is through providing continuous learning opportunities, both for yourself and your team.

  • Leading by Example: Actively participate in development opportunities, showcasing the importance of continuous growth. This sets the standard for your team, encouraging them to invest in their own education and skills. Executive coaching can be a powerful tool here.
  • Provide Opportunities for Learning: Don’t just say you support growth; make it happen. Provide access to training programs, conferences, or mentorship opportunities. Offer educational resources like subscriptions to online learning platforms or industry publications.
  • Invest in Skill Development: Business is competitive. Stay ahead of the curve by providing training programs or workshops that equip your team with the latest skills and knowledge relevant to their roles.

By investing in education and coaching opportunities, you empower your team to take ownership of their professional development. This not only benefits them but also strengthens your organization with a more skilled and adaptable workforce.

Are You Leading by Example?

Actions speak louder than words, and executives who embody the values they encourage inspire trust, loyalty, and high performance within their teams. In short, the road to effective leadership is paved with authenticity.

Contact Arden Coaching today to schedule a free consultation and discuss how our personalized coaching programs can help you cultivate authenticity and inspire your team to achieve greater success.

Together, let’s build a new generation of authentic leaders who lead by example.