Authentic Leadership

What is Authentic Leadership?

New theories and thoughts on leadership are still emerging, with no real consensus. Here I will explore Authentic Leadership.

Bill George (Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value and True North:Discover your Authentic Leadership) advocates that being true to yourself is crucial for effective leadership. Being true to yourself means not trying to model or copy a leader that you know.

However, this does not mean just being yourself and that's it. You have to be yourself on a good day - not on a bad day! The authentic leader works on being themself on good days so that they are operating at their best more of the time.

Being yourself though does not mean ignoring your weaknesses. The autentic leader becomes aware of their weaknesses and works to minimise them.

5 Aspects of Authentic Leadership

Purpose: Have a real purpose - this does not include being a leader because you want to be in charge.

Values: This is your moral compass which is shaped by personal beliefs, consultation, introspection. Practice your values.

Relationships: Build trust and commitment through openness and strong working relationships.

Self-discipline: Follow-through consistently. Manage your thoughts, emotions, behaviours, your energy.

Heart: Establish genuine emotional connection that will inspire your team to follow you. Connect above and below the neck! Lead with your heart and your head.

Management is the achievement of results through people. Authentic leadership helps you to achieve this. At the end of the day you need willing followers more than your team need you.

How to develop Authentic Leadership

Develop trust. Trust is the primary virtue that followers say that they want in leaders. See yourself clearly. Increase trust leads to:

  • Improved levels of employee engagement
  • Increased creativity and problem solving
  • Improved productivity
  • Reduced employee turnover

Fiona Beddoes-Jones (Authentic Leadership 360) says that the authentic leader displays high levels of self-awareness, which is an understanding of our own:

  • Beliefs
  • Values
  • Thinking process
  • Emotions
  • Boundaries
  • Strengths and weakness
  • The impact that our behaviours have on others

She says that the degree of the leader's self-awareness seems to be a good predictor of the strength of their relationship with others.

The authentic leader has also developed strong self-management or self-regualtion. This includes:

  • Self-discipline
  • Manage their energy
  • Control their thoughts, emotions and hence behaviours
  • Physical, mental and emotional resiliance

Beddoes-Jones also discusses the role of ethics:

  • Professional integrity
  • Honour
  • Courage to speak about what they believe in
  • Fairness and desire to do what is right

All of these behaviours build trust. Trust builds relationships.

Start on a process of honest self-reflection to deepen your self-awarness. Be committed to developing yourself.

  • Become aware of your own thinking and challenge your thinking.
  • Are you making assumptions about yourself and others?
  • What impact does your thinking, emotions have on your behaviours and how are these behaviours contributing to the results?
  • What conclusions can you draw?
  • What changes can you start to make?
  • Look for and be willing to listen to feedback - especially the kind that you don't want to hear.
  • Find a balance between your desire for external validation and the intrinsic motivation that provides fulfillment in your work.
  • Practice your values and principles and have the courage to speak up about what is wrong.

I believe that a title does not make you a leader. You are only a leader if you have followers. And, followers who choose to follow you rather than those who are forced to follow through fear of retribution or lack of choice. Leadership is a process. True leadership elicits followers from your team. To create followers your team needs to buy into your message, your vision. Everything that you do and say (your behaviours) play an important role here. It requires Adult-Adult Communication - and leadership does have as its cornerstone the ability to communicate effectively.

I do think that a lot of leadeship theories and models are very relevant: Situational Leadership; Adairs Action Centred Leadership; Behavioural Theories. Leaders do need to modify their style and approach based on the situation and the people. Leaders do need to recognise that tasks will not be achieved as effectively as possible if they do not work with the needs of individuals and teams.

To address people needs you do not have to forget about the task and likewise to achieve the task does not require that you forget about the person. Authentic Leadership offers futher thinking into the behaviours required for effective leadership.

Here is a link to Harvard Business Review Magazine where there is an interesting article "Discovering your Authentic Leadersing".

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