You fail them and they won't forget it
All your cred won't save you from the kids
They saw what you did
-- "All the Kids Are Right" by Local H
Trust is one of the most valuable currencies among people. It's pervasive across all types of interactions, from product and service sales, to relationships and friendships, to employer-employee and manager-report dealings, to politics at every level... you get the point.
At its core, authentic leadership requires people to be, well, people. According to "Leadership Guy" and best-selling author Peter Economy (yes, that's his real name), two big attributes of authentic leaders are that they know who they are and that they genuinely express themselves. They build a level of trust based around the fact of "what you see is what you get," which lends easily to placing faith and confidence in that leader and what they're saying. The simple act of being authentic establishes a willingness in others to believe in them and follow them, making authenticity an easy pillar to use in the foundation of leadership.
Authentic leaders don't come off as scripted or phony, because that destroys any notion of being authentic. If that credibility is destroyed, it's really hard to get back, and it stains everything the now-inauthentic person does with the stench of mistrust. Car salesmen have a reputation for being inauthentic, and there's a reason why people approach buying cars with a sense of dread – because that reputation of inauthenticity doesn't offer a bond of trust that they'll do right by the buyer.
What can you do to be an authentic leader? Here are a few suggestions:
Speak plainly and from the heart. When you speak in a manner that reflects how your constituency speaks, it resonates with them in ways that builds trust. In short, you're speaking their language, which makes it easier for them to believe you (and believe in you). Use grounded terms and language that isn't flowery... unless the situation specifically calls for high-minded rhetoric and quotes from authors. (Hint: Situations will rarely require that kind of language.)
Practice speaking naturally and comfortably. When you speak plainly and smoothly, it will help your delivery, which is key. If you speak in a way that sounds stilted, like you're reading off a script, it can be perceived badly by your audience. Sounding scripted makes your audience feel like what you're saying has been carefully crafted and constructed with a purpose in mind, that it's not real. Natural-sounding delivery, like you're just having a thoughtful conversation with someone, is a good way to establish believability.
Do what you say you're going to do. All the best-delivered speeches in the world won't help you if you don't follow through. One of the biggest attributes of trust and authenticity is that you deliver on promises. Otherwise, you're just another car salesman who'll say anything to close the deal and who cares what happens once that car's driven off the lot?
Most importantly, be human. People make mistakes; own up to them and be honest about them. People don't always have all the answers; be open to input from others. People are passionate; don't be afraid to show emotion about things you believe in. People crave connections and visibility; don't hide in your office and rule from an unapproachable ivory tower.
Being an authentic leader is the difference between having your team be willing to run through a brick wall for you vs. wanting to push you through a brick wall. Which would you prefer?