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What is Authentic Leadership?

A colleague, and close friend, mentioned to me the other week that they were spending some time thinking about authentic leadership and what that means to them. With Women in Construction Week right around the corner I got to thinking about the authenticity of female leaders I have worked with.

Let me briefly tell you about one... I worked with a female superintendent early in my career who was one of the smartest individuals that I have met. She was sharp, she knew her work, and what needed to be done at every step of the build. She had high expectations for herself and everyone around her. The work she built was near perfect.

I would love to be able to share that she has grown into a leader in the construction industry, but that is not the case. While she was focused on getting everything perfect, she was doing it to be sure that she looked good. She was curt, and would blame others if something wasn't quite right. As a result, she ran right over everyone in her way.

In a rare moment of candor between us I asked about why she was so "tough" (yes, I soft-balled the question), she shared that she thought she had to be "that way" in order to succeed. Because she was a woman. She was not being authentic to who she was. And she was not making any friends in the process. It was hard to hear.

So what does it mean to be an authentic leader?

Being an authentic leader is not new, but it takes courage. Authentic leaders:

  • Build trust ALL of the time. In every interaction. With every person.

  • Take ownership of mistakes. They admit when they are to blame. Even if the issue was because of their lack of leadership.

  • Show courage through vulnerability. Check out this ALTA post for more on why being vulnerable in construction is a sign of strength.

  • Are true to who they are. If you are a different person at work versus at home, you are not being authentic.

I have worked with many amazing, authentic women throughout my career (including my friend mentioned above). Many of them are leaders because of who they are.

2021 Women in Construction Week: March 7th - 13th

The focus of Women in Construction (WIC) Week is to highlight women as a viable component of the construction industry. WIC Week also provides an occasion for leaders across the country to raise awareness of the opportunities available for women in the construction industry and to emphasize the growing role of women in the industry. Check this out if you need some last minute ideas of what to do.


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