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Authentic Leadership: 4 Principles that Create a High Impact Business

September 09, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Bill Stierle


Creating a high impact business requires an authentic leader that fosters loyal teams, builds trust with new clients, and inspires hard work and efficiency.

Yet, in business we run into many challenges that can create emotional charges for us as individuals.

For example, it can feel frustrating when learning a new software program, or become angry with teams that are performing below ability, or we can get annoyed when someone asks about bookkeeping details when we're brainstorming in a strategic planning meeting.

There's a way to use emotions and needs as tools to develop an authentic leadership that can replace the 'driven problem solver'. 

With these four principles of emotional intelligence’s you can create communication ease, work flow effectiveness and generate authentic leadership.

So why does emotional intelligence create a higher business impact?

Because customers and employees crave connection and meaning, these are increased by vulnerability and sharing our humanness. Across almost all business metrics people buy and buy-in from connection.


1. Shift 'Judgment' to 'Observation'

So, what’s the difference? Judgment focuses on how things that “should” or “should not” be.

Judgmental words cause physiological changes in the body preventing clarity, understanding, and connection. Getting stuck in a black-and-white thinking, physically creates the flight, fight, or freeze reaction in the body.

Being the observer of a situation allows us to communicate and act clear-headedly about the fact of the matter.

By noticing what “is” provides clarity and decisiveness to act. Word choice matters.  Authentic leaders have courage to bring bad news early and express things honesty.


2. Increase your Emotional Vocabulary

“Human beings are born with the emotional capacity of a symphony orchestra yet most people walk through life blowing through a tin whistle.” Rollo May.

While working with the company’s top employee, Jessica’s manager reprimands her in front of others. If she uses a rational thought of, “I’ll just push through and ignore my anger,” and as she continues working, tension builds and emotions accumulate over time. 

So when her boss points out a future mistake. She blows up, “nothing is ever good enough for you!”  By ignoring her anger, it got worse.  

When we're feeling something, especially minor, and don’t express your feelings and needs, it builds the emotional load like a volcano.  

Authentic leadership develops a broad emotional vocabulary that safely engages communication early. Naming feelings and needs effectively reduces the emotions inside others as well as ourselves.  

With low emotional expression, both Jessica and her manager can trigger each other affecting the work environment.

Cultivate the thought that emotions are only indicators; like a car’s oil light. Thinking the oil light is problematic for businesses, causes issues to go unaddressed and get worse.

Emotional management is a multi-billion dollar loss in productivity, HR issues, and talent turnover. Authentic leadership observes rising emotions and learns to become curious and inquires what need the emotion is indicating.


3. Identifying and connecting Needs to Emotions

“At the core of all anger [emotion] is a need that is not being fulfilled,” Marshall Rosenberg Ph.D.

Emotions connected to a need causes it to immediately reduce the physiological response, thus subsiding the emotion. The body relaxes. The language association restores clarity and perspective and will prevent the emotion from replaying in the future.  

The authentic leader focuses on fulfilling the need of the employee or customer. 

George is attending a banquet celebrating the completion of their 6-month building project. As the assistant director it wouldn’t have been successful without him.

The MC only announces gratitude to program director, Suzanne. George feels disheartened, “without me this project wouldn’t have been successful.” George’s need for acknowledgment and recognition were not met, triggering his pain.

George’s options:

1) Suppress his feelings, becoming a “nice dead person”

2) Carry resentment becoming “monster person”

3) Rationalize the emotion, “talking to the oil light” attempting to soothe himself or

4) Self Empathy.

George needed acknowledgment and recognition by being mentioned with Suzanne.

An authentic leader develops the ability to express clearly what their needs are, thus de-escalate the body’s emotions.


4. Making Clear Requests

George’s clear, present request would be to ask; Suzanne or a colleagues, “Would you be willing to acknowledge the hard work I put into the project?

But how does George get his needs met after the fact?  

Authentic leadership checks in using empathy before problem solving.

Suzanne “George, in this moment, what can I say or do to acknowledge you and your efforts moving forward?”  

This type of questioning provides George the opportunity to get clarity on the next best thing and open an engaging conversation.  


The bottom line is, being a leader is to provide the vision to lead your team forward. And an authentic leader puts the heart in the process of communication. Knowing how to self-manage our emotions and connect needs reduces conflict, allowing us to work from our strengths, managing shortcomings, and being  a more effective authentic leader as well.


Sources:  Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language for Life.


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