5 Authentic Keys to Attract Top Talent

by  Meghan Biro  |  Leadership Development

Authentic Leadership leads to a sustainable workplace brand, the key to attracting talent

‘Authentic’ is a word rapidly falling out of vogue-especially with those of us engaging in social media. Yet none of us, if questioned, would deny we are authentic in our interactions with others. After all, we’re being ourselves all the time, right? How could that not be the real deal?

But to be authentic – ok-let’s say genuine – requires more than just showing up and acting a certain way, day in and out. It requires us to be genuine, to be real – to behave in a way that is trustworthy, reliable and credible.

You can see how a leader might, while believing him or herself to be behaving in a way that is true to his or her ‘original self’, actually deviate from that behavior quite a bit. This does not mean there’s malice, or even forethought. Rather, it reflects the reality that leaders play many roles in an organization. Some of those roles are constructs, a persona developed to accomplish a goal.

Here’s an example. A perfectly nice leader starts a company. He/she hires a bunch of people they know from former jobs, people with whom they are comfortable, who can get the job done. People, in fact, whom they can manage and control. See the shift? He/she has already determined the construct for his/her leadership style, a new personal brand: to manage new employees. You will be the person in charge.

But those people knew you in another role, as an employee of another organization. You were a different person; this leader behaved differently in that context. You were a colleague, not a leader. You were credible in that context. You hung out after work and shared many laughs.

Now you are now cast as a leader. The mantle of authenticity drops away: you are just another person pretending to be something you are not. He/She’s not perceived as a leader because no one has experience you as a leader. Your attempts to lead will be seen as clumsy at best, duplicitous and manipulative at worst. The people you hired will no longer know who you really are. Your actions, requests and demands will be inconsistent with everything they know of you. Trust will be damaged, if not outright destroyed. You will no longer be credible, and his ability to lead will be questioned at every turn.

It’s been said here at LeadChange that some leaders are born and some are made. Born leaders have it easy – it’s in their DNA. They are viewed as the real deal, even when they move to different organizations.

Those who aspire to leadership have a more difficult path. To lead, they must master a number of disciplines, develop skills and build a workplace leadership brand. They must stay true to their natural natures while becoming more than what they were. It’s a challenge to take on with passion and perseverance.

Here are five authentic keys for leaders who want to attract top talent:

  • Build a personal brand that takes all your leadership skills and amalgamates them into a coherent whole. I talk a lot about building superstar workplace and personal brands on TalentCulture and elsewhere.
  • Study the subject of emotional intelligence. Each of us has emotion and intellect. Emotional intelligence uses your emotions to unleash intelligence in such a way that people will see you as a leader. Only by understanding your emotional and rational selves can you create a compelling, resilient personal brand.
  • Understand motivation. Motivation falls into two categories – intrinsic (self-aware) and extrinsic (externally-focused). It’s vital for leaders to understand when a team member is self-motivated versus motivated by external pressure.
  • Create a workplace culture of accountability. Define roles and tasks, set a schedule, check on things, recalibrate if necessary and reward when appropriate.
  • Use external advisors and counselors as a check-and-balance to make sure you are behaving in an genuine, trustworthy way. Choose people who are honest, who aren’t afraid to tell you tough stuff.

The worst mistake a leader can make is to assume that he or she is a leader simply through the act of taking on a new title or role. Such a person is not behaving in a trustworthy way. Workplace culture will suffer, retention will drop, and recruits will be confused and will leave or perform poorly. Customers will sense the lack of stability and look for new suppliers.

Tell us about your views on what it takes to be a leader and attract the best talent. Is the most important piece being truthful? Is creating a personal brand more important? Is emotional intelligence the key? We’d love to know that you think.

Please join myself, Kevin W. Grossman, and the #TChat community along with my valued community friends at Leadership Chat including hosts Steve Woodruff, and Lisa Petrilli, tonight, Tuesday, June 14th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time on Twitter for our first-ever Joint Leadership Chat/TalentCulture Chat!  Simply search for the #TChat or #LeadershipChat hashtags.

Our topic will be: How Magnetic Leadership Attracts Best Talent. You won’t want to miss what promises to be an epic Twitter event! (Cue dramatic Hollywood music…)

We look forward to seeing all of you there!


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What People Are Saying

Shawn  |  14 Jun 2011  |  Reply

You share some valuable places for leaders to “investigate” to attract top talent. If readers do any or all of the five items you list, they’d be well on their way to strengthen how they show up as dynamic, effective, and relatable leaders – a magnet for attracting top talent.

Well done.

Meghan M. Biro  |  27 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Hi Shawn! My never ending travel cycle finds me just responding to you now. It’s nice to know I have a community like Lead Change to return to.

Thanks very much for taking the time to comment on my post. Even born leaders can overtly/inadvertently miss the basic steps and want to jump ahead to the “more exciting” parts = personal/workplace branding and the creative steps involved in advertising your voice to the outside world. Beginning from within yourself and branding outward to the relevant social extensions is truly a lot less work in the long term. The primary work for leaders is self-analysis. Emotional intelligence holds so many answers in my opinion. Knowing your inner most resources and limits first encourages those around you who may be seeking more clear guidance in a way that is often even more compelling.

mckra1g  |  14 Jun 2011  |  Reply

I’m so frustrated by the ubiquitous use of “authentic” in the space, as it dilutes the power of the word. Besides, it’s the most efficient and accurate word I can think of to describe the way someone’s “You-ness” permeates who they are, what they do and what they represent.

When a leader is able to distill these disparate elements, they exude a polarity that draws the right people to them. It is my opinion that a leader’s first goal is to reconcile who they are, what they hope to achieve and what they embrace fully. Once those decisions are made, their message resonates with the right people. From that point, a confident leader is able to choose from various people to populate his or her team to the best effect (especially when choosing those who complement his or her skills).

Authenticity is a magnet. Looking forward to chatting later tonight! Best, M.

Beyond Horizons  |  15 Jun 2011  |  Reply

For me, authentic leadership comes from confidence – in yourself, your work and in your ability to inspire and look out for ‘your people’. Many aspiring leaders go wrong when they try to mould themselves into being ‘stereotypes’ of leadership. Each leader is different. Leadership is not a ‘one size fits all’ deal. Successful leaders are the ones who infuse a little bit of themselves into their leadership style. Because when you’re being who you are, its easy to sustain. And that adds consistency and credibility to your leadership

– Girish ( http://www.beyondhorizons.in )

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