What do emotional intelligence and authenticity have in common? Everything. In its most stripped down form, being emotionally-intelligent means being an authentic person.

Yet authenticity doesn't come natural, especially for leaders and managers. Sometimes it's easier to not deal with emotional matters at work, as confrontations can get ugly and dramatic. It's so much more convenient to sweep things under the rug.  

The avoiding approach is also a recipe for disaster because it leads to more drama and more conflict.

If this strikes a chord and you're on the path to growing and developing your leadership skills or emotional intelligence, listen up.

The most effective and results-oriented leaders leverage the strength of authenticity for business outcomes -- it's why soft skills are so crucial to develop in business. That's why you do it, not because you want to win a popularity content or play nice with people.

But authenticity -- like any other important soft skill in the workplace-- takes work and practice, I won't lie.  

Here are five things the most authentic leaders do best to gain trust and win the hearts and minds of people for competitive advantage.

1. They don't wear masks.

A common tendency of people in management roles is to put on a mask that hides who they truly are; maybe through how they order people around, or how they forcefully command attention with a false charisma. An emotionally-intelligent leader displaying the strength of authenticity shows up with her best self -- with excellence, integrity, self-awareness, and emotional honesty. She leads with both her mind and her heart firmly entrenched in the work space.

2. They let themselves and others be human.

Great leaders display authenticity by making room daily for laughter and joy, while accepting that they're not perfect. When they make mistakes, they will admit them. When employees make mistakes, it's safe for them to risk being open enough to say, "Hey boss, I messed up." They can say this because they've built relationship with their authentic bosses, where trust and psychological safety travel both ways.

3. They run toward conflict.

Let's accept that conflict in the workplace is unavoidable and human of us. Unfortunately, it's also very human of us to create distance, not speak up, or stone-wall -- all horrifically bad, passive-aggressive ways to deal with conflict. On the flip side, being assertive and speaking up when they have to is the authentic way to conflict management.  No, I'm not talking about speaking up abrasively and impulsively to run over people or win an argument at the expense of others. What authentic leaders do is courageously run toward the eye of the storm because they know that cutting through a conflict to resolve a problem with respect, dignity, and listening to understand is easier than the negative consequences of running away from a conflict.

4. Their speak in integrity.

Authentic leaders don't say things to sugarcoat, try to please others, or look good in front of their peers. They don't betray themselves or others by using words or making decisions that are not aligned with who they are at the core of their beings. These leaders speak clearly, honestly, and with integrity. 

5. They are out in the open.

Authentic leaders, especially during the tough times, don't hide behind closed doors or conveniently delegate important communication needs to others. They are out in front sharing plans for the future, addressing questions and concerns, getting buy-in, and calming fears during change and transition. Employees look to leaders for information, clear expectations, and status of what's going on when the chips are down. This is why authentic leaders will "walk their four corners," check in with their people, and personally answer questions to ensure trust is ongoing and people feel safe.