How to be a more 'authentic' IT leader

In today's digital workforce, it's not enough simply to manage. Workers are looking for authentic leadership.

By Sharon Florentine
Oct. 6, 2016

The authentic organization

And an authentic organization has better relationships with customers, too, Gonnering says. By encouraging his workforce to be authentic, open and honest in all customer-facing relationships, Widen goes beyond the usual vendor-client relationship and builds real, human connections, he says.

"We are honest with everyone we deal with about what we're great at, where we're working to improve, how we can help them. Just as you can't put up walls between your leadership and your employees, we feel you shouldn't put up those barriers between vendors and clients. Being authentic means we get better feedback, more open communication, we have higher client retention rates, we get better customer referrals -- it just keeps showing us the benefits," Gonnering says.

Authenticity also encourages diversity and inclusion within an organization, says Anthony Abbatiello, a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP's Human Capital practice and the global leader of Deloitte Leadership.

"Authenticity in leadership is important to bringing in a diverse and inclusive workplace. Diversity of thought, background and experience as well as gender, race, ethnicity -- these are all critical to helping growth, execution, inspiration and attracting and retaining talent in the organization. And when you have authentic leadership, you're designed for growth whether that's revenue, new products and/or innovations as well as a strong organizational culture that aligns with these business outcomes," Abbatiello says.

Architecting authenticity

Can you build authentic leadership, or is it something you just have to luck into? It's a bit of both, says Steve Nunn, vice president of global cloud and infrastructure services, Unisys. Some people are born leaders; some have the potential but just need guidance and support to develop those traits; some people just aren't leadership material. There's also a difference between "leaders" -- those who want to drive new ideas, innovation and growth -- and "managers" -- who are content with and capable of maintaining the status quo, Nunn says.

"Leadership development is about being mindful of your own weaknesses and strengths as well as being able to identify those in your workforce. Honestly, some people want to be leaders, some people want to be managers, and some just want to be workers -- and that's OK. The world needs all these types of people. Being able to identify and accept which of these aspects you're comfortable with is a huge part of authenticity," Nunn says.

The good news is that, for those who may not have innate abilities in a leadership realm but have aspirations to leadership and want to develop and hone those skills, it's absolutely possible, says Deloitte's Abbatiello.

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