What kind of leader (and person) do you choose to be? Here at Thought Patrol we are big fans of Authentic Leaders. Rodger Dean Duncan is the bestselling author of CHANGE-friendly LEADERSHIP: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance. Here is his take on how authenticity powers effective leadership. Popular definitions of leadership tend to focus on the outer manifestations of leadership—such as vision, judgment, creativity, drive, charisma, podium presence, etc.—rather than getting to the essence of leadership itself.
This external pattern continues at the organizational level. People often receive recognition for their external mastery. Success is often measured in terms of revenue, profit, new product breakthroughs, cost containment, market share, and many other familiar metrics.
Clearly there’s value in achieving and measuring external results. But that’s not the real issue. The more relevant issues are (1) “What produces the external results?” and (2) “What enables the sustaining of good external results?”
The answer to the first question is leadership.
The answer to the second question is great leadership, the authentic variety.
Authentic leadership is a product of honesty. Honesty about putting the needs of others ahead of your own. Honesty in communicating information, both positive and negative. Honesty in accepting—welcoming—viewpoints different from yours. Honesty in integrating the values you profess with the behaviors you exhibit (sounds a lot like “integrity,” doesn’t it?).
Authentic leadership is also a product of clarity. Clarity in what you stand for, and what you will not stand for. Clarity in your navigation through the sea of limitless choices, using the “True North” of your values to keep you constantly on the right path and enabling you to make the necessary course corrections when you temporarily stray.
In pre-Revolutionary Russia a priest was confronted by a soldier as he walked down a road. Aiming his rifle at the priest, the soldier demanded: “Who are you? Where are you going? Why are you going there?” Unfazed by the sudden interrogation, the priest replied with a question of his own: “How much do they pay you?” Somewhat surprised, the soldier answered, “Twenty-five kopecks a month.” After a thoughtful pause, the priest said, “I have a proposal for you. I’ll pay you fifty kopecks a month if you’ll stop me here every day and challenge me to respond to those same three questions.”
None of us has a “soldier” confronting us each day with life’s tough questions. But we can honestly ask the questions of ourselves. If we choose to, we can issue our own self-challenges to push ourselves not only to do better but to be better.
In his breakthrough book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge wrote, “People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas, and they are deeply self-confident. Paradoxical? Only for those who do not see the journey as the reward.”
The word authenticity is derived from the same Greek word as author. Becoming an authentic leader requires day-to-day focus and lifelong commitment to self-discovery. Many executive coaching programs seem to emphasize personality more than character. People are often coached on how to act instead of how to be. This charm school approach produces only superficial, short-term results. With sufficient stress, all the old patterns usually return.
Authenticity is a matter of choice. We deliberately choose to behave in certain ways under certain circumstances.
One by one by one, those choices mold us into who we are.