What if Authentic Intelligence was the secret to success?

By Ulrike Seminati

If something is missing in your life, it is probably you.

How often do you look at successful leaders and think ‘I’d like to be like that’? Many of us try to level up our profile by comparing ourselves to others who we feel are superior.

Sticky Notes visualize

Do not get me wrong. Taking successful people as inspiration for our own actions is tremendously valuable for our own development. However, if we measure success on a scale that is not ours, we will most likely live with the subliminal feeling that something is missing in our lives.  

A ‘work version’ of yourself that is not your true self?

I frequently work with clients who are steadily climbing the career ladder yet are never satisfied with themselves. Many of them admit not only slipping into their business clothes in the morning, but leaving parts of their true self outside at the entrance to work.

Being your true self in your career means that your work optimally aligns with your interests, skills and – most importantly – with your values. When you are true to yourself and follow your passion, you are far more likely to be successful than when you carry out your work in a way that does not suit you.

Ulrike Semanti visualizing our thoughts

This may sound simple, but some people believe that they should adopt a specific behavior at work, which sometimes does not lead to the best results. When leaders act like someone they are not, they risk losing the respect of their employees. Whether you are in a leadership position or are aiming to be, authenticity is key.

Engaging in authentic leadership helps to inspire and communicate messages in a sustainable and inspiring way and thus leads to building credibility and trust. It revolves around a single goal: to be oneself.

What is YOUR version of you? It is time to update that definition and to develop your own Authentic Intelligence™.

Ulrike Seminati in conversation with leaders

In a study of 1996, Daniel Goleman published his findings on the strong correlation between Emotional Intelligence and a company’s success. He compared highly successful leaders with average ones and found that nearly 90% of the difference in their profiles was related to emotional intelligence factors rather than cognitive abilities.

I would like to go one step further. Successful leadership is not only based on the well-known ingredients of Emotional Intelligence. Your success and wellbeing as a leader are significantly enhanced by the ability to apply this knowledge to your unique self. This is what I call Authentic Intelligence™.

Here are 3 ways how you can develop your Authentic Intelligence:

1 – Calibrating your compass

Your focus on different tasks, priorities, and actions depends on what you consider important. Defining a concrete set of values is beneficial as it serves as a delicately balanced compass. If you decide to stick to your values, making consistent decisions in life and pursuing goals that are worthwhile for you become a piece of cake.

So far, it might be that you have adopted values from others or society that do not fit you. If you are not aware of this, you might believe that these values are important and that you must align to them. To identify your true values, you must mentally free yourself from the limitations of your current life circumstances. If you want to embrace who you are, be bluntly honest with yourself and identify a set of no more than five values that are representing what you are truly aspiring for. 

Your genuine values, those that fit your needs and your authentic core, are probably not matching the ones you find in the top-notch leadership profiles of renowned headhunters. This is no reason for concern. The specific combination of your personal values is what makes you unique. And exactly this uniqueness raises the attractiveness of your profile because you radiate personality and charisma.

2 – Standing up for your opinion

Once you have defined what truly counts for you, you will need the courage to translate your intentions into actions. Learn to consciously assert yourself. Observe where you act according to your values and where not by noticing your reactions throughout the day

If, for example, respect is one of your core values, do not let yourself be dissuaded from treating your team with the level of respect that meets your requirements; even if your boss or colleagues prefer not taking the time to do so because financial goals are paramount.

When you begin to consistently translate your values into action, you will realize how your sense of self and your role as a leader takes a positive and self-empowering turn.

3 – Embracing vulnerability

Some of us hesitate to be vulnerable because we assume this means exposing our weaknesses. Especially as a leader, we feel the need to put our strengths and competencies in the foreground. But the opposite is true. 

There is compelling evidence that admitting our mistakes, seeking help, and acknowledging we do not have the answers enables us to be our true selves and releases energy to face ambitious challenges

As René Brown stipulates “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage”. Leaders who are prepared to show their vulnerability gain the trust of others more easily – and trust is the basis for shaping high-performing teams.


“Living from your true self emanates a level of gravitas that inspires your team and boosts your career in an incredibly positive way.”

Being authentic liberates you. It gives you the freedom to break free of societal and cultural expectations to rise to your highest self as a leader