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The Authentic Leader in the Metaverse

The metaverse, a more immersive internet still in nascent stages, is expected to be a trillion-dollar industry in years ahead.

In my prior article, I introduced three critical leadership qualities needed in the metaverse, to move from  individual-focused online worlds of “WebMe,” to a community-focused hybrid worlds of  ‘WebWe.”

The three leadership skills include being an Agile Strategic Leader, Authentic Leader, becoming a Servant Leader-Community Builder.

Why is authenticity so important in the metaverse?

In online worlds, people will assume personas in the form of avatars. Think of your avatar – or multiple avatars – as your digital representation. You could show up as a cartoon, or in your photo likeness.

When we’re in the physical world, we see other people as their flesh-and-blood human selves. But in the metaverse, you might choose to appear as one of an infinity of avatar options to suit your mood, and the occasion.

Determining who, and what is “real” in both digital and physical worlds could become challenging. People hunger for believability in other human beings.

The Authentic Leader earns and nurtures trust. They build trust in both physical and digital worlds, even when taking on the form of an avatar.

According to research, leader trust is based on three essential qualities. [1]

Consider how you might demonstrate these qualities on a hybrid basis (in-person and in virtual worlds):

  • Genuine concern for other human beings,
  • Personal integrity, and
  • Personal abilities or competence.

Authentic leaders in the metaverse will create truth. They will foster trust and transparency—not lies. They are consistent and will do what they say.

While it may seem obvious that authenticity is key when it comes to being a good leader, creating an authentic digital presence isn’t always easy. If you’ve ever recorded yourself and then watched it, you’ve probably noticed that oftentimes your voice or behavior changes.

While the subtle change of your voice is no big deal, you want to make sure you’re not changing who you are just because you’re interacting through a digital medium. Being an authentic leader means learning how to make your digital persona just as smart, empathetic, professional, and human as your in-person self.

Leading theories of authentic leadership emphasize four dimensions.[2] These four leadership qualities will help us grapple with balancing physical–digital lives in the unchartered metaverse.

  1. Self-awareness: Understanding how you make meaning of the world and how that meaning-making process affects self-image over time; awareness of strengths, weaknesses, your multifaceted nature, and your impact on others.

A good self-assessment question: Can I list my three greatest weaknesses?

  • Relational transparency: Presenting your authentic self to others; promoting trust through disclosure, information sharing, and the expression of true thoughts and feelings.

A good self-assessment question: Can I openly share my feelings with others?

  • Balanced processing: Objective analysis of all relevant data before making decisions; a willingness to solicit and consider views that challenge your own.

A good self-assessment question: Do I seek feedback and others’ opinions before making up my own mind?

  • Internalized moral perspective: Self-regulation guided by internal moral standards and values rather than external standards; behaving and making decisions consistent with these internalized values.

A good self-assessment question: Do my actions reflect my core values?

For more tips about cultivating Authentic Leadership qualities, see Chapter 6 in Leadership in the Metaverse: Creating the Future of WebWe Through Strategy and Community Building (Fast Company Press, 2023).

[1] Mayer, Roger C., Davis, James H. and Schoorman, F. David (1995). “An integrative model of organizational trust.” Academy of Management Review; 20(3).

[2] Neider, L. L., & Schriesheim, C. A. (2011). “The authentic leadership inventory (ALI): Development and empirical tests.” The Leadership Quarterly, 22(6), 1146–1164.