Are you as confused as many other leaders about, what exactly authentic leadership entails? Are you concerned that being yourself might not just do the trick? I mean, where is the manual for that? Well you are not alone. Leaders in general have a hard time understanding the new leadership approach – being an authentic leader. Directly translated it means something that is genuine, true and not a copy of anything else. In other words being YOU. That might not be just that easy, when you take the last decades of leadership theory and learning practices into consideration. For years leaders have been taught in details what we expect of them. How you recruit, onboard, set goals, give feedback and praise etc etc. A number of organisations have provided templates for this and the other. We have been so focused on building skills according to a certain manual. Building leadership skills or being a leader has become a jacket you wear. Now you are a leader you have to set the strategy, understand the business, develop your team. Check. Check. Check. In our eagerness to learn what it means to be ‘A leader’, we have forgotten the most important part. The leader. In my view leadership starts and ends with the leader him or herself. And I strongly believe that we have to give some of the responsibility of being a leader back to the leader. In the empowerment lies authenticity. This does not mean that we should stop building generic leadership skills. Not at all. But we have to wake up the leaders first and build their consciousness around what it means to be genuine and real in a leadership role, before we can develop specific leadership skills. Otherwise we are building competences on a shallow case to put it very direct.
There are many trademarks of an authentic leader.
Most importantly authentic leaders are self-aware and reflective. They ask for feedback and talk openly about their strengths and weaknesses and admit mistakes. They are the same person at home and at work and create followership because of that.
Authentic leaders are purpose driven AND focused on achieving results. Authenticity is not about being soft or easy going. It is hard core business but with a longer term strategic focus that is not only financially driven. And then of course, authentic leaders lead with their hearts not just their minds. In other words they show empathy and are people oriented.
First questions to start your development work to become an authentic leader:
Why do you want to be a leader?
What kind of leader do you want to be? What are your 2-3 trademarks?
What purpose drives you in life?
Why should employees follow you?
What is the one thing that you can start implementing already tomorrow to build your authenticity muscle?