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Is being an Authentic Leader at work good for your well-being?

When you show-up as yourself, you get more out of you and those around you.

Welcome to Executives After Hours Blog/Vlog series. I am combining efforts to appease those who prefer to read versus watching a video (AKA old school) and those who prefer a video to reading. Over the last three months, I have been posting videos and articles discussing my book (now out on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2w1IswH), but now that it is out I thought I would switch things up a bit. How do summaries of academic articles sound? Great, you say!!! Perfect, because that is what I am going to do. There is a lot of great work that never sees the light of day, so at least for the next couple months, I am going to review one academic article a week that researches the impact of Authentic Leadership.

For this weeks article, I turn to Matthias Weiss, Stefan Razinskas, Julia Backmann, and Martin Hoegl, who wrote the article titled “Authentic leadership and leaders’ mental well-being: An experience sampling study”, which was published in 2018 in Leadership Quarterly.

The overarching question they ask is, ‘what is the impact on Authentic Leaders well-being in the workplace? More specifically, how does being authentic impact a leaders workplace stress, workplace engagement and how does mental depletion impact both. Weiss and colleges utilized 44 executives who reported five-times a day over 10 days. The daily journal entries were focused on engagement, stress and mental depletion.

What they found was that when a leader is authentic they are more productive, less stressed and do not experience the same level of mental depletion. What is interesting is the breakdown of mental depletion. Mental depletion is one part impression management and the other part surface acting. Impression management is the art of a leader promoting particular values that are not congruent with their felt values. This creates a tension and in turn, mental depletion. Whereas surface acting occurs when a leader engages in fake emotions while engaging with other employees, also leading to mental depletion. The reality is that many of us do this to some degree. However, it is when we engage in these behaviors to a high degree that the felt mental depletion impacts our stress and workplace engagement.

So what do you do?

We can probably all agree that acting authentic in the workplace can be a little scary. You can feel judged, and full of doubt, often wondering if those around you will find value in the ‘authentic’ you. Plus, showing up with your authentic self in a culture that may not support it is even more terrifying. For me, the key is to try and stay within 15% of my baseline authenticity. What does that mean? Well, if you are on a journey of self-awareness like me, you begin to sense when you are most at ease. When your impression management is low and happiness is higher. What that baseline looks like for you is totally different, but the net result is that you end-up lowering the percent of the time you spend in impression management or surface acting. So, next time you feel like you are trying to create a partially or completely false narrative for those around you, pause and ask yourself, ‘is this the best version of me?’ If yes great, if not, recalibrate.

James Kelley, Ph.D.

[email protected]

TW: @exeucitivesAHour

LI: /in/kelleyjamesb

Matthias Weiss, Stefan Razinskas, Julia Backmann, and Martin Hoegl, ‘Authentic leadership and leaders’ mental well-being: An experience sampling study The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 29, Issue 2, April 2018, Pages 309–321

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