By Denise Gray-Felder, APR 

(excerpt from keynote speech at Celebrate & Elevate 2018)

Truly authentic women leaders are ahead of their time as well as visible targets. For many institutions do not want people who put value before profit; right before expedient; who challenge in order to educate.

An authentic leader continually exposes you to new ways of thinking – takes the road less travelled – asks “what if?” – when most would prefer to be safe just doing it the old way.

The truly authentic leader challenges you to think beyond and perform above where you are – and do far more (than you think you can do) …

An authentic leader directs you to follow the horizon when you have not even seen the sun for days.

She defines success differently.

Authentic leaders are honest, unselfish and driven FIRST by values not by ambition.  They leverage their life stories in the workplace – and in every other aspect of being. They win not because they are always right, but because they are most often REAL.

Let me share some other attributes of authentic leaders:

  1. Courage
  2. Forward-thinking and hopeful; a visionary
  3. Impatient – not satisfied with the status quo
  4. Values-driven/ethical
  5. Compassionate and passionate
  6. Honest and a direct relationship builder
  7. Self-aware and genuine
  8. Brings her or his real self to the workplace
  9. Truthful – promotes openness and self-reflection
  10. Understands and embraces her own life stories, and of others on the team.       

I am personally frustrated too often when trying to keep my authentic self alive, or witnessing others trying to keep theirs, in some institutions. I admire, greatly, women who manage to hold on to authenticity when it is easier to give in.

For each of you, I will you the courage to live the life – work and personal – that you define, based on the terms you set.  Authentic leadership is needed in every aspect of our lives, our state, our country – and our world.

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To read an expanded version of her Headliner speech at Celebrate & Elevate 2018, click here. Denise shares her journey to authentic leadership – from her upbringing on Detroit’s west side and formative years at U-M, to the political and social turmoil that defined the times then and now.