Authentic Leadership has been a leadership theme and approach that has gained popularity over the last decade, but what is it and why should you care? Authentic Leadership is leading others from a place of personal self-awareness, courage, vulnerability, strength, humility, purpose and values. Authentic leaders are what you see is what you get meaning that they don’t act one way in private and another in public. They’re committed to take the personally challenging path and trust the benefits of doing so are exponentially greater than the discomfort they experience on the journey. As the Velveteen Rabbit in Margery Williams’s classic tale experiences, becoming authentic or “real” is difficult, uncomfortable and wholeheartedly rewarding.
So why would you want to be an authentic leader? Simply, because that’s who people want to follow. That means more engagement from everyone on your team tapping into what they want to do rather than what they have to do. It means stronger real relationships with your team members, your clients, and everyone you interact with making it easier to move your business and personal goals forward. Authentic leadership empowers everyone to step up and lead and creates strategic thinking and a focus on long-term purpose and achievement beyond day-to-day execution. While some say execution is everything, executing on the wrong priorities is just make-work and won’t create the results you and your team are working so hard for. Creating the right strategy to maximize long-term results requires authentic leadership.
The journey to authentic leadership starts with understanding the story of your life. Such an understanding will provide you with insight into how those events shaped you to become the leader you are today. According to Bill George, author of Discovering your Authentic Leadership, many leaders report their motivations come from the difficult experiences in their lives. Rather than seeing themselves as victims, authentic leaders used these experiences as a source of inspiration and drive to make a difference in the world – giving meaning to their lives. By exploring your story, you’ll find context and inspiration for the impact you want to create in the world. Your life, as you’ve experienced so far, is an important lens that shapes how you look at everything around you, the decisions you make, and the actions you take as a leader in business and anywhere else in life.
To develop your authentic leadership, here are some questions Bill George asks:
Which people and experiences in your early life had the greatest impact on you?
What tools do you use to become self-aware? Do you know your strengths and talents, do you know and embrace your shortfalls?
What are the moments when you say to yourself, this is the real me? When do you feel really alive?
What are your external and internal motivators? How do you balance them?
Who is on your support team? Who is on your personal organizational chart, not just the company chart? How can your team make you a more authentic leader? What diversity do you need to add to your support team?
What does being authentic mean in your life? Have you ever paid the price for your authenticity as a leader? Was it worth it?
What steps can you take today, tomorrow or over the next year to develop your authentic leaders?
Choose courage over comfort. Commit to stepping into discomfort, uncertainty and emotional exposure. Become real like the Velveteen Rabbit. It’s uncomfortable and hard along the way, and the payoffs for you, your team and the bottom-line far outweigh the challenges of the journey.