4 Steps to Being the Authentic Leader Your Millennial Staff Needs

Millennials make up the largest generation in the workforce, and the leaders above them are dying to know how to lead them effectively. As a millennial, I’m here to share one of the key qualities my generation looks for in those we report to. It’s a trait that could very well be a determining factor for whether or not we stick with a job. And that quality is… authenticity

At Leadercast Women 2018, speaker Ritu Bhasin, author of The Authenticity Principle, defined authenticity as, “the consistent practice of choosing to know who we are, to embrace who we are, and to be who we are as much as possible so that we feel better connected to the self.” (Find a clip of Ritu’s talk here on Leadercast NOW.)

We millennials seek authenticity in the brands we purchase from, in the foods we consume, and in the leadership we receive. We want leaders who are real—people who tell it as it is, don’t hide their emotions, and are candid about their ideas and expectations. Using my past as an example, inauthenticity was a big reason why I left one of my first jobs, and I know several colleagues my age who have encountered the same and went on to find jobs where the leaders were more authentic. 

Don’t let the lack of authenticity be the reason people jump ship. Below are a few things you can do, as told by expert leaders, to be more authentic in your leadership—not only for the sake of your millennial staff members, but for any generation you lead.

1. Express yourself emotionally.

Author, and sales leadership expert, Lisa McLeod warns leaders against “keeping it professional” when it comes to getting emotional at the workplace. “If you want to have a really successful business, you've got to get emotional,” shares Lisa in a video interview with Leadercast NOW. “Logic makes you think. Emotion makes you act.” 

Showing your emotions requires you to be vulnerable, and vulnerability humanizes leaders. When you’re vulnerable with those you lead, you show that you struggle just like everyone else. 

2. Show you care.

Taking it a step further, leaders should not only get emotional with their staff, but also express how much they care and value their team members. It may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many leaders skip this step, explains Brett Trapp, former executive vice president of client experience for Booster Enterprises, in a Leadercast NOW interview. “We get so focused on our product, our service, our organization that we forget to be humans, to just care about people,” he says. 

Does each member on your team know how much you care about them, their family and their career growth? Have you specifically communicated this? Brett notes that when people know their leaders truly care about them personally and professionally, they’re more likely to be engaged in the workplace; it lights a fire in them and generates hard work.

3. Say what you mean. 

This is a biggie for me personally. The best leaders I know are those who tell it as it is, never skirt around an issue, admit their mistakes and are always clear about their expectations. I’ve seen countless misunderstandings occur because the leader wouldn’t say what was really on their mind. Can you imagine the relationships that could be salvaged and the miscommunication that could be avoided if we all said what we really mean? 

In an interview with Leadercast NOW, Melissa Gordon, founder and president of EchelonCommunicate, provides six ways leaders can speak like they mean it. They include staying true to who you are, being clear, using influence and making the conversation come to life. 

4. Walk the walk. 

Leading by example is leadership 101, and it’s deeply connected to how authentic our followers view us to be. For example, when a leader says one thing that is seemingly authentic but their actions speak otherwise, not only do they show inauthenticity, they also lose trust and credibility among their followers. 

In a Leadercast NOW interview, author and career strategist Julie Bauke shares that leaders who practice the “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy have an impossible time getting people to follow them. “Leaders need to realize that everything they do and say is being watched,” she explains. “It's being scrutinized, potentially; and the folks that report to you a lot of times are looking for consistency, [or] inconsistency, times when you talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.” Julie advises leaders to ask their teams to call them out when their actions and words do not align. You won’t get it perfect 100 percent of the time, but opening the door for communication and feedback will invite your team to help you be the leader you strive to be.

I hope these few steps provide you insight on your journey to being an authentic leader worth following, but know that authenticity, at its core, isn’t hard. Be yourself. Stay true to who you are in both your actions, and your words, and lead others with integrity. 

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Hayley Panagakis is a freelance writer, editor and content creator. Connect with her on LinkedIn and visit her website to learn more about her services.

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