Be an Authentic Leader

Be Accountable

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Key Point: Authentic leaders are deeply sought after and appreciated by people at all levels. This was reinforced in high definition for me during several ATB Town Hall meetings I recently participated in. During these sessions, people asked such great questions: “What personal feedback have you been given this year?” “What have been your highlights and biggest disappointments to date?” “Why did you decide to take this role on?” “What really keeps you up at night?” “What are people really saying about our team?” And so on. The exchange reinforced how much people really value authenticity.  They don’t want perfection, fluff, spin, or the “right” answer. They want the respect of us sharing our genuine selves.

Bill George’s Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, was a New York Times best seller a few years ago before authenticity was as topical. George best summarizes it like this, “(The book’s) message is simple to state but challenging to realize: We need authentic leaders to run our organizations, leaders committed to stewardship of their assets and to making a difference in the lives of the people they serve.”

Below are excerpts from the book that may be insightful on the topic:

A. “To become authentic, each of us has to develop our own leadership style, consistent with our personality and character. Unfortunately the pressures of an organization push us to adhere to its normative style. But if you conform to a style that is not consistent with who we are, we will never become authentic leaders.”

B. “Dimensions of Authentic Leaders: I) Understanding their purpose. II) Practicing solid values. III) Leading with heart. IV) Establishing connected relationship. V) Demonstrating self-discipline.”

C. “For each of the dimensions, a developmental quality is required for leaders to be effective: I) Purpose: Passion II) Values: Behavior III) Heart: Compassion IV) Relationships: Connectedness. V) Self-Discipline: Consistency.”

Character Moves:

  1. George’s message is another example of how vital it is to be clear and self aware about our personal purpose, values, ability to connect, and consistency of behavior. If you haven’t written these down and reflected upon them, personal authenticity is more difficult to demonstrate.
  2. Practice being vulnerable (but not maudlin). People, while we may aspire towards it, do not expect or really believe in total perfection. Their confidence in us increases when we sincerely tell them what we find daunting, disappointing and challenging as well as exciting, joyful and gratifying. They root for us when we are transparent about our journey. We like people who get grass stains on their knees, are scraped up, with messed up hair.
  3. The best test on how centered and authentic you are is the degree you are open to any question at any time. While the answers may feel uncomfortable, the responses are genuine because we know who we are and what we stand for. To some extent, while we do not know the subject matter, we know the answer because it is us. Are you ready for a “town hall” at any time? Will people see you the true you?

Authenticity in The Triangle,

Lorne