In today’s fast-paced world, authentic leadership in the workplace has become more crucial than ever. Yet, fostering an environment where individuals feel secure enough to express their true selves remains a challenge.

The importance of authenticity cannot be underestimated – it is the foundation of trust, innovation and strong relationships. Creating such a culture requires intention, understanding and actionable strategies.

This article emphasises the role of authentic leadership in creating a safe and productive workplace.

The power of authentic leadership

Authentic leadership plays a critical role in building a workplace where employees feel safe to express themselves. In my own leadership experience, three key traits have been instrumental to my success: curiosity, comfort with ambiguity and empathy. These traits enable leaders to navigate complex and diverse environments effectively, promoting a culture where authenticity thrives.

A recent study by LinkedIn found that 64% of professionals believe that having authentic leadership at their workplace significantly increases their job satisfaction. Leaders who are transparent about their thoughts, feelings and vulnerabilities signal to employees that authenticity is valued.

For example, at Storyblok, we have a monthly company wide call where we celebrate our successes and also share learnings. Separately, we hold ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions with our CEO where people can be more open about sharing challenges and asking honest questions without fear of judgement.

Build trust through empowerment

Trust is earned when employees feel their contributions are valued and they have autonomy over their work. Empowering employees to make decisions fosters a sense of ownership and authenticity.

For instance, a business that implements a policy allowing team members to lead client projects based on their interests and expertise, rather than seniority alone, empowers younger team members and encourages them to express their unique perspectives. This not only demonstrates trust in their abilities but also results in innovative campaigns and increased job satisfaction.

Create safe spaces for sharing

Establishing forums where employees can share ideas, concerns, and aspirations without fear of negative consequences is crucial. These spaces can be physical or virtual, formal or informal.

Some companies, for example, have introduced programs where team members meet to discuss recent setbacks or failures in a supportive environment. These sessions are framed as opportunities for learning rather than criticism, encouraging everyone to contribute and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Actively seeking out and valuing different viewpoints not only enriches the workplace but also helps mitigate conflicts that may arise from diversity. Celebrating diversity in thoughts and backgrounds promotes a sense of belonging and mutual respect.

Listening to understand, rather than to respond, is vital in validating employees’ feelings and perspectives. Active listening demonstrates respect and appreciation for diverse viewpoints, encouraging more open and honest communication where employees feel valued and heard.

Encouraging mentorship programmes where experienced employees can guide and support newer team members also creates an environment of growth and mutual respect. Such programmes can help bridge gaps, develop collaboration and ensure that every team member feels included and valued.

Impact on company loyalty and productivity

Authenticity within an organisation significantly influences its relationship with employees, customers, and the broader community. Trust, honesty, transparency and authenticity are part of our DNA. This reflects on how we lead, how we work with each other, how we do business with our customers and how we work with investors and the broader community.

Customers have told us that one of the differentiators on making their purchase decision was the people they came in contact with – that the team members were authentic, genuine, customer-focused focused and passionate about what they do and their company. When employees feel safe to be authentic, they are more likely to be engaged and loyal to the company.

Data from Gallup showed that employees who feel their manager is approachable and cares about their wellbeing are 70% more likely to be engaged at work. This, in turn, drives productivity as employees are more motivated and invested in their work. It’s really important for leaders to understand that a culture of authenticity encourages innovation, as employees feel free to share their ideas and take risks without fear of negative repercussions.

Furthermore, companies that prioritise authenticity often see reduced employee turnover, as individuals are more likely to stay in an environment where they feel appreciated and understood. According to a 2023 report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), UK companies with strong workplace cultures experience up to 43% lower employee turnover rates compared to those with less supportive environments. Naturally, this stability leads to a more cohesive team and consistent performance.

Ultimately, developing authenticity is not just about improving workplace culture—it plays a vital role in sustainable business growth. By nurturing an environment where authenticity is valued, companies can unlock the full potential of their workforce, driving long-term success and innovation.

Marisa Pereira
VP of People & Organisation at Storyblok | Website | + posts

Marisa is the VP of People & Organisation at Storyblok. She ensures that Storyblok scales successfully by ensuring that the company's values and healthy culture are upheld and lived by everyone in the way they work together. She and the People team strive to create a great team member experience where everyone is empowered to be part of the stories that Storyblok helps shape. Before working at Storyblok, Marisa worked in various industries in global and regional Human Resources roles. She's lived in 6 countries and loves to meet and chat with people worldwide.