Do You Want Authentic Leadership? Be Real

The ability to relate to people where they are is far more valuable to your leadership than maintaining a squeaky-clean image. Be real. Give people time.

be real

Be real with people, or be prepared to lose them.

It’s hard. As Pastor Rick Warren wrote once, we all fight against three particular fears:

  • the fear that we will be exposed for who we truly are

We overcome those fears by deciding to walk in the light, rest in God’s love, and by allowing God to give us a new heart.

But knowing that authenticity is absolutely key to connecting with and leading people, how do we cultivate authenticity among those whom we lead who in turn lead others?

How do we create a more authentic staff or more authentic volunteers? I have a few thoughts.

Be Real: TheKey to Authentic Leadership Culture

1. Start with the soul.

How’s your soul? How’s your life? Those questions are far more important than what have you produced lately?

Most leaders are driven toward the goal of success, and in the pursuit of success, we often fall into the bad habit of seeing people as a means to getting ministry done. But the very people we use as a means are the ministry.

2. Be real: Model openness.

This one might seem obvious, but we all struggle with it.

I can remember once having a disagreement with my wife. I became discouraged that I, a Pastor, couldn’t get along perfectly with my bride.

A few days later I was listening to Pastor Chuck Swindoll on the car radio and he said, “My wife and I have the same fights you do.” I was a little stunned and greatly relieved. His openness helped me greatly.

3. Make room for flaws.

It’s one thing to allow for failure, but healthy leadership cultures celebrate failure, within sensible limitations.

The way someone answers a question like how are things going? will be greatly determined by how much the leader feels she needs to put up a front.

In a culture where it’s okay to mess up, leaders can get real, learn from mistakes, and boldly take more educated risks.

3. Repeat the language of authenticity often.

If vision leaks, then culture fades.

It’s far easier to slip into our autopilot — which means self-protection — than to embrace openness. Leaders hold the power of repeating the words and phrases that keep their organizational culture strong.

None of us has it all together…
We move toward the messes…
Everybody has a story and every story matters…

And so on.

4. Be real. Hammer it home.

If authenticity is a core value for you, make it a core value for those whom you lead.

Write it into your story and keep it front and center.

We’re going to be real here. That’s just who we are.

Make it abundantly clear.

Be real. Give people time. Openness is scary and won’t become a part of any culture overnight. But in the end, the ability to relate to people where they are is far more valuable to your leadership than maintaining a squeaky-clean, problem-free image.


This article about the need for leaders to be real originally appeared here, and  is used by permission.

Brandon Cox is Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In his spare time, he offers consultation to church leaders about communication, branding, and social media. He and his wife, Angie, live with their two awesome kids in Bentonville, Arkansas.