4 Traits of a Sincere Leader

Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, wrote that sincerity along with courage, generosity, modesty, and other noble character traits is a virtue. Leaders who act sincerely have the ability to avoid duplicity and embrace straightforwardness. To be labeled sincere doesn’t mean you carry your heart on your sleeve, it doesn’t mean you have to intensely stare at other people, and it doesn’t mean you have to beat your chest and tell everyone your secrets. Instead, sincerity is more nuanced and its meaning more broad. Sincerity demands that you act genuine instead of listing facts. Sincere people reveal their feelings directly and frankly. It’s part honesty and part candidness…

4 Signs of Sincerity in Leadership

Sincerity should be a natural extension of your personality and therefore it’s a unique, individual, and inimitable virtue. In other words, people’s sincerity is expressed (and perceived) in different ways.

However, I’d like to argue that there are a few core components that every sincere leader possesses. They are as follows:

1. Honesty: It’s hard, maybe impossible, to always tell the whole truth all the time within organizations. Sincere leaders won’t lie to people or disguise their emotions. That said, it isn’t always as easy as it seems because lying and sugar coating can pave the quickest escape route. However, silence doesn’t necessarily make you insincere.

2. Straight-Talk: George Orwell said, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.” I’d add that insincerity is also the great enemy of clear conversations. Sincere leaders don’t relay on buzz phrases and “hot” words to communicate a point. They don’t need use florid Latin-based words to lay out a plan. Padding conversations and employing verbal misdirection dilutes meaning and leads to insincerity.

3. Honest Self Assessment: Sincere leaders should be truthful about their shortcomings or their lack of information. It some situations it’s best to define yourself by your inabilities rather than by your abilities. Honest self-assessment will save time and push things forward–it will also earn you the respect of your coworkers.

4. Sincerity as an After Thought: Sincere leaders don’t think about sincerity. Instead, it is incorporated into the very fabric of their interactions. Leaders can’t fake sincerity. There is a certain irony in the fact that the more sincere you think you are the less sincere you come off.

While sincerity might come off as a loose term that is nuanced with political correctness.  Rather, sincerity, more often than not, is the litmus test that followers put leaders through. How often have you heard someone say, “I don’t agree with her agenda. I’m not convinced that she is taking us in the right direction, but she is sincere.” That ‘but‘ differentiates leaders who can mobilize people and those who have to constantly look over their shoulders.

Picture Credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shadowgate/ / CC BY 2.0

Samuel B. Bacharach

I'm a professor at Cornell University's Institute for Workplace Studies in NYC. I write about the importance of proactive leadership in the office..(read more)


2 thoughts on “4 Traits of a Sincere Leader

  1. Thank you for your good information. Your respectful viewpoint is much needed on Planet Earth. :)

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