The 5 Characteristics of Authentic Leadership 

What does it mean to be a leader? Most people identify having influence through one’s job title as the primate trait, but there’s more to it! At RFL, we believe that anyone – regardless of their title or job description — can practice leadership. So, what are the hallmarks of a true leader? 

Michael Hyatt, a leadership coach and former CEO of a $250 million publishing company, has some tips over on his blog, Full Focus:

1. Insight 

Sometimes we refer to this as vision, but that usually refers to an ability to think about or plan for the future. While leaders must have vision, they also need wisdom and discernment for the present. They need to be able to look at complex situations, gain clarity, and determine a course of action. Steve Jobs stands as one of the best examples of this in recent decades. When he returned as CEO of Apple, Jobs inherited a mess, but he had the necessary insight to reboot the business and eventually dominate the industry.

2. Initiative

Leaders don’t stand on the sidelines — they go first. And they don’t ask others to do what they’re unwilling to do themselves. First and foremost, authentic leaders lead by example. Initiative means seeing something that needs to be done and starting it. It means taking the first step rather than waiting for someone else or for a “better time”. This kind of initiative is indispensable because it instills confidence and courage in the people around you and communicates the kind of dedication that earns trust.

3. Influence

Did you ever notice that influence and influenza come from the same root word? It’s no coincidence. Real leaders have a “contagious” effect. People are drawn to their vision and their values; they can gather a following and move people to act. And the best part is, none of this requires having a particular title or holding an executive-level position! At RFL, we help people unlock their potential to inspire others and create change at work, home, and in their communities.

4. Impact

The measure of leadership cannot be found in the leader, but in the impact that a leader has on the people around them. Ultimately, leaders make a difference — they’re instrumental in creating real and lasting change. Think about the extraordinary impact of Martin Luther King Jr. Who mobilized activists, organized leaders, rallied supporters, and helped secure passage of the most sweeping civil rights legislation in the U.S. to date—not to mention changing countless hearts and minds about the impact of segregation.

5. Integrity

Integrity—or the lack thereof—ultimately determines the quality of a person’s impact. In a sense, this is the foundation of authentic leadership. A leader’s success stems from standing by their words, actions, decisions and methodologies. As a leader, knowing and committing to acting in accordance with your values will lead to greater organizational effectiveness and build lasting trust. 

What can you do to improve as a leader? 


Adapted from, “The 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership” by Michael Hyatt.