Is authentic leadership really such a new thing?
Authentic leadership is an approach to leadership that emphasises building legitimacy through honest, open and trusting relationships. These leaders are collaborative, value input and build a workplace culture based on ethics. Generally, authentic leaders are positive people with a strong self esteem. They connect in a very real way in contrast to authoritarians who focus on power, control and sometimes coercion.
Who are the authentic leaders?
Ignore the stereotypes, our greatest and most successful leaders are in fact, most often, authentic leaders. In order to achieve success they put in a lot of effort to overcome their own fears and use their strengths optimally. They are not afraid to dig deep, and they lead their team with a courage and empathy that only comes from listening to the heart. Their character is not flawless but they have fewer flaws and they acknowledge them.
Martin Luther King certainly comes to mind. Leader of the American Civil Rights Movement
Steve Jobs said at his commencement address at Stanford University: “Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation.” He proceeded to explain why he dropped out of college.
Warren Buffet said his biggest mistake was buying Berkshire Hathaway —“a 200-billion-dollar mistake.”
Oprah Winfrey has been extremely open about her traumatic childhood
Leaders should not be “actors.” When a leader’s staff don’t trust them they don’t like or respect them. Authenticity opens up a relationship to deeper connections. Respect is certainly earned in Authentic Leadership.
Authenticity doesn’t mean telling the whole world every intimate detail about our lives but we need to act and speak honestly, and with integrity. Honesty is when you tell the truth. Integrity is the validity of the truth.
Authentic leaders create a vision that builds long term and sustainable buy in. This is a tough challenge for leaders but it is one that truly makes a difference.
Leaders speak about “Integrity” and we know that this is something highly valued but achieving integrity requires a person to act out exactly what they believe and say. It requires congruence in spite of the forces that may try to make them shift off such a mission.They must consistently hold themselves to a set of high standards.
“The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity.” – Zig Ziglar
Leaders who are “Authentic” are characterised by:
1. Know Who YOU Are (“Self-Awareness”)
A prerequisite for being an authentic leader is knowing your own values, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses and goals. Having very clear principles is critical as this becomes the foundation for developing other components of authentic leadership.
“You attract the right things when you have a sense of who you are.” – Amy Poehler
2. Be Genuine (“Transparency”)
To be honest and straightforward in a work environment might seem obvious but stress, relationships and the dynamics of a work place put pressures on such values. An authentic leader does not have a hidden agenda. They don’t play games or manipulate the situation for a purpose. It is always clear where an authentic leader stands.
3. Fair and Balanced (“Considered”)
Opposing viewpoints and opinions are considered before action is taken. Reactive behaviours are minimised, hides agendas are eliminated and plans are well thought through.
4. Ethical (“Do the Morally Right Thing”)
An authentic leader has ethics at the core of all decisions and actions. All behaviours are driven by a concern for ethics, values and true fairness.
You can’t put someone else in charge of your morals. Ethics is a personal discipline.
“You can’t put someone else in charge of your morals. Ethics is a personal discipline”. – Price Pritchett
The next step might be the “courage” to actually live this life of authenticity and to make it work for you as a leader. Finding the courage to do the right thing can require strength but also a true belief that authenticity will achieve the aims it espouses. At the end of the day, in this context, we are talking about improving leadership performance, not enlightenment.
While most would not argue that authentic leadership is the right way to live our lives, leaders need to have the personal security, confidence, fortitude and self esteem that allows authenticity to be their foundation. Integrity is having the character AND the courage to do what’s right, even though it might put you, and other people, outside of their “comfort zone.”
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CEO and Leadership Expert Greg Parry
Internationally renowned for his expertise in international leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for organisations throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received numerous awards and his company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in recent years.
Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained leaders throughout the world in areas such as leadership, communication, personal skills and global perspectives, among other areas. His expertise in international business start up projects, leadership and training development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.