The Path to Authentic Leadership Often Misses 1 Key Ingredient
Some things are best understood through the lens of their opposite. Authentic leadership is one of them.
If you’re not authentic you are:
No one aspires to be a phony, but what else do you call someone who wears a mask.
Why you care about authenticity:
#1. Connection requires authenticity.
Relationships are phony when you wear a mask. You can’t connect with others and others can’t connect with you.
#2. Energy gain instead of energy drain.
Being a phony is exhausting. Bringing your best self to work is liberating.
#3. Employee attitude and happiness.
If you work for a phony, work is dissatisfying.
#4. Clarity of vision and mission.
When you forget who you are, you define yourself by your circumstances.
You can’t see where you need to go until you see who you are.
The path to authenticity includes:
- Self-reflection that leads to unvarnished self-awareness.
- Values that are known and honored in daily decisions.
- Commitment to contribute to others. Authentic leadership isn’t about serving yourself.
“Authenticity is not a license to be excessively focused on the self. It’s about being aligned with your character and values in order to lead effectively. That takes work.” Brooke Vuckovic
The missing ingredient to authentic leadership:
Ideas about authentic leadership often leave out one key ingredient.
I searched “authentic leadership” on the internet. One key ingredient is often missing, vulnerability.
Authentic leaders have:
- Courage to be seen.
- A point of view they are willing to share.
- Curiosity about people and their viewpoints.
- People in their lives who tell them the truth.
- Boundaries. Authenticity enables you to say no with kindness.
- Confidence they have something to offer.
- Bravery to own mistakes.
Authenticity is harder than it seems because it includes courage to be seen.
What is challenging about authentic leadership?
What does the path toward authentic leadership look like to you?
Still curious: How Leaders Become Real – Lessons from Pinocchio
Thanks Dan, really great depth to these insights. I’m challenged to accept that the subterranean work of leaders – intentional growth and awareness of self work – is implicit in every leadership relationship.
I read your posts almost every day… This is the first time I have commented. I believe that this is quite possibly your best post! Thank you!
Authentic leadership starts with being honest with yourself. That’s often easier said than done. Start by being brutally honest and candid with yourself.
This is such an important concept; thanks so much for holding up the mirror. Sometimes it’s scary, but it’s essential!
It is, of course, deplorable for a leader to be consciously fake and to attempt to mislead people about who they are. In that sense authentic leadership is desireable. However, social science suggests that the notion of self can be very slippery. Self is socially contructed and to some extent people have different selves depending on the social context. Also, research around authenticity suggests that people tend to feel most authentic when they are conforming to social norms – for example, behaving according to the values you were raised with, or have acquired in your workplace. But feeling authentic and being authentic are not necessarily the same thing. This is why leaders who for a long time seemed to be authentic are sometimes found to have feet of clay.
I really appreciate the call out for vulnerabilities and self-awareness when it comes to being an authentic leader. One of the worst VPs I ever reported into would tell my sales managers that their commission issues aren’t his problem (when they were) while bragging about buying a high six figure house in cash in the same sentence and hanging out at the CEO lake house in his free time. When it came to the actual work, he also greatly missed things like “bravery to own mistakes.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a quarter of his global sales team (reps, managers, and directors) quit within 2-3 months after he took over. That’s the repercussion of not being an authentic leader AND not hiring authentic leaders who can be human and relatable.
Everyone needs “blind spot checkers” who can educate leaders on how they are coming across.
I’m not sure quite sure how authentic anyone really is at work. There’s a lot of bits of people that are present, authentic but totally unacceptable in work situations. In every situation, our “authentic ” personality is a slightly different subset of the whole gamut of what we are.
Love this! You can’t be the best version of yourself trying to be someone else.
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