I have been studying and writing about and training Authentic Leadership for over 10 years. This week I would like to summarise, as concisely as possible precisely what Authentic Leadership is. If enough of us can follow the path of Authentic Leadership, particularly in business, politics and public service, human society might become peaceful and sustainable. If not…
1 – Authentic Leaders take the journey where the road ends: It is easy to lead over a known route, where leadership becomes challenging is into the unknown. Innovation in product or practice is what leadership is all about. The critical challenge is to maintain the followership as the uncertainty builds. Think of the job of maintaining the confidence of a crew early transatlantic sailors as you sail West beyond sight or sign of land. Leaders have to inspire complete confidence, even if they do not always feel it, not by bluffing, but framing the story and the strategy in such a way as to make success inevitable.
2 – Authentic Leaders are invisible: Authentic Leaders do not need to be heroes, they are also just part of the team and are rewarded by accomplishing the vision and making heroes of other team members. When everything is running smoothly the Authentic Leader might have nothing to do, except to hold the space and be completely aware of everything that is going on, quietly stepping in to carry water bottles or lead the climb, depending on what needs doing to support the team.
3 – Authentic Leaders are humble: Authentic Leaders need no credit for their achievements, because they recognise that every achievement is an achievement of the team. Equally Authentic Leaders do not blame, preferring to focus on learning and sharing learning.
4 – Authentic Leaders embrace responsibility: Leadership is about embodying the vision of the team, maintaining alignment around it and stepping up to ensure that whatever needs doing to achieve the vision is done, efficiently and effectively.
5 – Authentic Leaders act – even at the risk of looking stupid: Leaders have to be willing to put their ego to one side and do what they believe in, even at the risk of looking foolish. Many people are hidebound by their own limiting beliefs, regarding those who step beyond as “brave” (by which they mean foolish). The most powerful communication is through action, leaders act as a means of inspiring, persuading and aligning their team.
6 – Authentic Leaders need followers: One of the most important roles of leadership is recruiting brilliant people. The purpose and vision of the team is key, the best team players will be inspired by the shared purpose, not by the idea of individual success or reward. Everyone from investors to support staff will be inspired with being part of the team that is achieving the vision.
7 – Authentic Leaders do not wait for permission: Most of us have been taught from an early age to ask for permission. Leading means doing the right thing regardless of permission, finding a way past obstacles, never taking no for an answer, challenging those who stand in the way and innovating to create solutions where none exist. If you want to teach your children leadership skills, give in to them when they put forward a good reason for doing something (not just for pestering).
8 – Authentic Leaders are inclusive: Authentic Leaders recognise that everyone is part of the team – even competitors. Everyone can help in achieving the vision and the job of the leader is to recruit them to the cause.
9 – Leadership is a contact sport: As a leader you need to be prepared to upset a few people too. Not everyone will be willing or able to join the team and even some team members need to be challenged at times. A leader always has to keep their priorities in the order of the vision, the team and finally themselves – if pursuit of the vision means that someones views need to be ignored, so be it, but avoid creating enemies as you do it.
10 – Authentic Leaders are Authentic: Authentic Leaders know their own purpose, vision, mission, values, strengths and weaknesses. They live them wholeheartedly, without fear or compromise in all situations. The Authentic Leader offers their strengths and admits their weaknesses humbly and honestly to the team.
If you want evidence to support these observations, just think of the best leader you have ever known. It is likely that they exhibited most or all of these characteristics.
If you are ready to embrace your authentic leadership and your responsibility to the world and would like some help on how to do it for yourself or your team – give me a call.
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