“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
-C. G. Jung
So you have a title after your name and an important position in the business world.
Does it mean that you’re a real leader?
Maybe. Maybe not.
The great leaders of history may have had titles and designations after their names, but they all also possessed one powerful platform: authenticity.
They were genuine. They didn’t need to copy anyone else. The world knew of their tremendous accomplishments – and they were made aware of their weaknesses, too. People saw them as real people, with strengths – and frailties.
Henna Inam once said, “If we try to emulate the leadership style of others we perceive as successful, we end up being second-rate versions of someone else.”
What Defines Authentic Leadership
If you were to ask a dozen people what makes an authentic leader, you’d probably get a dozen different answers. Authenticity is something you don’t define in yourself, as Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones explain in the Harvard Business Review. “No leader can look into a mirror and say, ‘I am authentic.’ Authenticity is largely defined by what other people see in you and, as such, can to a great extent be controlled by you.”
Managing your authenticity is similar to the behavior of a chameleon. An authentic leader adapts to his environment; he doesn’t change his core values. “Highly attuned to their environments, they rely on an intuition born of formative, sometimes harsh experiences to understand the expectations and concerns of the people they seek to influence,” the authors write.
It’s not the schmooze talk we’re so used to hearing from politicians and others. It’s a genuine quality that Goffee and Jones admit is in short supply. “Leaders and followers both associate authenticity with sincerity, honesty, and integrity. It’s the real thing—the attribute that uniquely defines great leaders.”
What Authentic Leaders Do
While there are varied opinions on what comprises authenticity, several core traits can be said to characterize an authentic leader. They:
- Are courageous
- Lead from the heart
- Speak the truth
- Have a rich moral fiber
- Don’t let a fear of judgement hinder them
- Don’t try to please everyone (because they know it’s not possible)
Authentic leaders know themselves. As Ronald Riggio, Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today, the roots of authentic leadership are derived from Greek philosophy, centered on the core virtues of prudence, temperance and justice.
People want to be led by someone real, noted Goffee and Jones. “This is partly a reaction to the turbulent times we live in.” The recent terrorist attacks in Paris are a harsh reality of a brand of violence becoming an increasingly common means of expression. Is it any wonder that the world seeks – and needs – authentic leaders?
Are You Living An Authentic Life?
When we stray from our core values, the very inner of our being, we see our lives fall off track. Panache Desai writes in the Huffington Post of the tell-tale signs that you’re not living authentically:
- You flounder… you dread your job, the one you used to love. You may feel empty.
- You’re often overwhelmed, frustrated, or worn out – you know something’s definitely amiss in your life.
- You feel like you’re being punished
We can all admit to experiencing any or all of those signs, or of simply not “feeling ourselves.” That’s a sign that you’ve strayed from your core values. It’s a wake-up call!
Be who you are – regardless of whether other people like it or not. You’ll find it extraordinary!
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Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Colleen Slaughter Raue, Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International
Colleen is a transformational leadership coach who guides international leaders as they attain the clarity, courage and self-confidence necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
Her purpose is to facilitate her clients’ transformation from limiting beliefs and self-doubts into a deeper, more powerful knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter.
Colleen’s perspectives were recently featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.