3 Simple Rules of Great Leadership: Know Thyself, Be Authentic, Build Trust

"Know Thyself. Be Authentic. Build Trust."  Make this your leadership mantra and watch your capacity to lead amplify.

1. Know Thyself.

Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence (EQ), and EQ is a topic we talk about a lot here at FounderForward (see our last blog post on EQ > IQ).

You probably have a mission, vision, and values for your company, right?

Why not spend a few hours creating those for yourself? Ask yourself: What is my mission? What’s the vision for my next year? What’s the vision for my life 10 years from now? What values matter most to me as a person?

Writing these things down will help you to identify what’s really important to you and to align your behaviors with your beliefs.

While you’re at it, spend some time reflecting on your strengths and weakness, stressors and fears, drivers and motivators, and blind spots and limiting beliefs.

The goal is to zero in on who you really are. And who you want to be. If there are gaps, use this as an opportunity to learn and grow as a human and as a leader.

If this “self-examination” view of leadership makes you uncomfortable, then it is time to get uncomfortable. That is, if your goal is to be the best leader you can be.  

From Aristotle and Socrates to modern era leadership gurus, Warren Bennis, Stephen Covey, and Daniel Goleman, “knowing thyself” is the crucial factor for developing into your best self.

“Knowing thyself” is also imperative to authentic leadership. Said another way, self-awareness is a precursor of authenticity.

 Photo by:  Green Chameleon  

Photo by: Green Chameleon 

2. Be Authentic.

We hear a lot about “being authentic” these days.

Authenticity in leadership means acting and interacting in ways that are aligned with your personality and principles. It means being genuine and staying true to yourself.

Authentic leaders are not afraid to show their emotions or to be vulnerable. In fact, they share when they make mistakes and highlight what they learned with their team.

So, why is authenticity important? Authenticity inspires connection and engenders trust.

3. Build Trust.

You want and need your employees, your customers, your partners and your investors to trust you. Trust is the key to your success.

Without it, teams fall apart, cultures crack, and companies fail.

In fact, after interviewing 525 top CEOs, New York Times columnist Adam Bryant concluded: “If you were to force me to rank the most important qualities of effective leadership, I would put trustworthiness at the top.”

He continued, “I keep going back to first principles of how we’re wired as human beings — we can sense at a kind of lizard-brain level whether we trust someone.”

Trust makes people feel safe and more positive (literally building up oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine in the brain). And you need these feelings (yes, techies, we said feelings) for your teams, culture, and company to thrive.


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