The authentic leader


Struggling to pick your perfect leadership style? Stop and be true to yourself instead says Desiree Perez, Leadership Coach

“Thinking back to my corporate days, I always thought that the ‘perfect’ leader had to be a certain way. When engaging in my master’s degree for leadership, I learned about all types of different leadership styles and none of them gave a clear conclusion to what is the best leadership style. I felt confused. Who am I to be then? If the most extensive studies cannot give a clear indication, how am I supposed to know?

Fast forward to today, I understand that the reason why there is no clear indication. It is because it is dependent on so many different factors. Most importantly, who we are as individuals. Who we are is shaped by our beliefs, assumptions, education, and our experiences which make all of us unique. It is about possessing core skills as a leader that we use in our own unique and authentic way rather than trying to be that one person that is portrayed as an excellent leader. People trust you when you are genuine and authentic; not a replica of someone else.

Curious minds like to know: What is an authentic leader?

An authentic leader demonstrates a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently, and lead with their hearts as well as their heads. They establish long-term meaningful relationships and have the self-discipline to get results. They know who they are.

In the studies conducted with successful leaders with over 3000 pages of transcripts, the one thing that became clear is that we do not have to be born with specific characteristics. Leadership emerges from who we are authentically and our life story.

How do you become an authentic leader?

Knowing your authentic self: As leaders, it is often challenging to take time for self-reflection. We are busy establishing ourselves and we are looking to bring value to the organizations that we work for by creating success. Success for our organisations and ourselves.

Money, fame, power, status, and growing revenues might be some of the ways we measure success. However, we might get to the point where we feel that something is missing. This is why creating self-awareness is important along with taking in feedback and discovering our blind spots that are in alignment with our values. Authentic leaders realise that they have to be willing to listen to feedback—especially the kind they don’t want to hear.

Practicing your values and principles – it is fairly easy to live by our values when things are going well. But when we are under stress, we will truly experience what we are willing to give up and what our non-negotiable values are. Leadership principles are values translated into action. Having a solid base of values and testing them under fire enables us to develop the principles we will use in leading.

Balancing extrinsic and intrinsic motivation – it is easy to orient our careers and our success to what society in general believes success is. A clearly defined career path along with an increase in salary and other money-oriented motivators are clear indicators of extrinsic motivation and validation.

For some of us, success actually looks different. We also need to look at our intrinsic motivators. Moving away from the external validation of personal achievement is not always easy. Achievement-oriented leaders grow so accustomed to successive accomplishments throughout their early years that it takes courage to pursue their intrinsic motivations. At some point, most leaders recognize that they need to address more difficult questions in order to pursue truly meaningful success.

Here are some questions that you can ask yourself for your development as authentic leader:
  1. Which people and experiences in early life had the greatest impact on you
  2. What tools do you use to become self-aware? What are the moments you say this is the real me?
  3. What are your most deeply held values? Which ones are you willing to compromise on, and which ones are non-negotiable?
  4. What motivates you extrinsically? How do you balance extrinsic and intrinsic motivation? How should you diversify your team to broaden your perspective?
  5. What kind of support team do you have?
  6. What does being authentic mean in your life? Are you able to be the same person at work, in your personal life and in your community?
  7. What specific steps can you take to develop your authentic leadership? 
Working on self-awareness is the most important part of any coaching engagement that I have. It is fascinating to see how increasing self-awareness is a fundamental first step in taking performance and wellbeing to the next level.”

As always, I am happy to support you in any way I can. Please do not hesitate to email me at