The Art of Authentic Leadership

How To Become An Authentic Leader

By Vic Desotelle

Authentic Leadership is for those who
choose to ‘BE change’ as the way to ‘SEE change’

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Authenticity as Prerequisite for Leadership

Today’s growing global problems can not be solved using the same methods that created them in the first place. Thus, we must evolve our approaches toward innovation, including a new eye on leadership. This article addresses leadership from a very different perspective. How do we bring in new forms of technologies, build conscious business paradigms, support social issues, and formulate economies that create well being in our communities?

To create a better world for our children and our children’s children, we need to apply leadership in a new way. ‘Authentic Leadership’ addresses this need. Specifically, it reshapes our way of thinking and collaborating. It helps us to make more choices available to more people, and to make better decisions by using evolved forms of collaboration and individual empowerment. This kind of leadership is what is needed to help us build a sustainable vibrant world society.

Authenticity is the difference between leading and leadership

There is a difference between practicing formulated exercises to create personal change, and experiencing deep transformational change through self awareness. This is done by first empowering yourself as a leader based on your interests, capabilities, and passions, to realize your own unique authentic identity.

Once this is achieved, a shift in personal understanding of leadership will occur. With this shift, comes an evolution in the way you are able to help others realize their own power and their own sense of leadership. Thus, you become a catalyst for change rather than a director of change.

The primary role of an Authentic Leader is to follow change from behind, not direct it from from the front.

That’s right: I said ‘follow’. By following team members and watching for ways to enhance their own ‘yellow brick road’, you inject power into both the individual’s and the group’s journey – one individual at a time, including yourself.

Change carries greater purpose than satisfying our own self imposed ideals that others want to follow. This is not empowering and does not lead others toward their own authority. Realizing this is a big step toward becoming an authentic leader. To do this, the way leadership is viewed has to change:

Rather than placing your leadership in front of others and ‘leading the charge’, you instead follow and keep a watchful eye for the opportunities to ‘catalyze desired change’. This enables change – not through your direction, but by facilitating and empowering those who reveal guiding insights with a passion to act.

Choosing ‘director’ leadership or ‘follower’ leadership says much about how we will affect change.

Director-leadership reinforces old ways and helps to stabilize existing cultural norms, whereas follower-leadership establishes new pathways for culture systems to emerge. Both have their role in evolving a society. However, ‘follower’ lead approach focuses on creating the new by recognizing when old principles, rules, and behaviors don’t work anymore. Unlike ‘director’ leadership, ‘follower’ leadership allows effort to be on creating the new without putting energy on breaking down old norms that no longer serve us.

This actually is the only way real change happens, since killing off the people and systems that serve the old way does not in fact kill off the behavior of that old way. When you look at history, our revolutions, which arise to address needed change, have not really been effective. The same patterns have tended to repeat themselves over and over. To create real change, we must attend to the emerging new, not put energy into eliminating the old.

The ‘Bulls-Eye’ – An Old Metaphor for Leading and Succeeding

Have you seen how the target is so often used as a business metaphor? I do like this metaphor of the arrow hitting the bulls-eye, but for a different reason than you may think. What if, for the authentic leader, it is no longer appropriate to aim for the center of the target? What if your best shot is actually when the arrow lands in the furthest outer ring?

For the authentic leader, viewing situations from a target’s periphery is more powerful than from its center. The edge is a place where you have to be more a part of the interactions with others. You are not at the center of the world for all to adore. The new leader has moved passed his own “me center” needs that satisfy personal ego. Instead respect is gained by risking at the edge. Risking being seen in in the vulnerability of one’s humanity as a person that makes mistakes and is flawed like we all are. The periphery of the target is not as safe as the center. It’s at this periphery, and not the center, where an authentic leader’s true power is realized.

In Leadership Ecology, you want to target the OUTER ring, not the center bulls-eye.

From the outer ring you have a very different perspective on leadership. By placing yourself in the outer ring, you are in the best position to move others into the center, not you. Aiming for this part of the target also challenges your own awareness, and thereby your authenticity as a person. And this is so important as a leader, because people can feel your truth. It is not as hidden as you may think. Most can tell when you are not really coming from your authentic self.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall …

Each of us sees ourselves best by reflecting off of others. In fact, I propose that it’s the ONLY way we can see our true authentic selves. That is, your ability to be truly who you are will become evident once you surround yourself with others who can empathize with your life path and compassionately share with you how they see you. This mirroring concept is core to good a leader’s ability to facilitate others along their path.

It is the authentic leader’s responsibility to be a reflection of you. It must be done in a nonjudgmental way, while at the same time being boldly-truthful – a mirror of ‘you’.

A mirrored message can not be recognized by you until someone actually reflects it back to you, and taking in reflected (mirrored) messages can be difficult. Often, what another says about you triggers the ego’s protection mechanisms. But allow them anyway. Permitting these reflections will help you see through your own forest of day-to-day trials. As you serve others in this way your own leadership qualities and abilities improve and becomes more meaningful. As a mirror, you generate and acknowledge your own insights with others. This process actually becomes a spiritual journey as you enter into your own personal labyrinth toward becoming more aware.

Creating an Ecology of Leadership

When we come to realize our own authentic identity, we move to a place of compassion and empathy for others. Rather than being in the front office, where too often isolated decisions are made, instead your influence radiates out in an attempt to partner with others. You no longer are a director overseeing subordinates, but instead see value in empowering others, helping to shape an empowered network of interactions. A ‘Leadership Ecology’ begins to form.

Evolving an ‘Ecology of Leadership’ is not done by placing yourself at the center of attention, or at the front of the room with everyone’s eyes pointed at you. Rather, it is done by positioning yourself to easily focus on others in the group, not them being focused on you. As we’ve discussed in the bulls-eye model, this comes from a place of guiding from the periphery, rather than directing from the center or the front office.

When a Leadership Ecology occurs, a web of relationships emerges revealing each person’s authentic leadership qualities through the transfer of their power to others. When done in a conscious way – a shared collaborative awakening happens.

Authentic Leadership is Collaborative?

Once you get comfortable with this new perspective, your actions and your direction of others, will come from a different place – an empathic place, which is the first step in empowering others to their own leadership. This is what ‘authentic leadership’ is all about. It’s this kind of leadership that empowers others into their own leadership. It marks the beginning your organization moving toward new forms of collaboration that create unexpected, even disruptive innovation that is built on a foundation of group empowerment – a collaborative leadership.

Each One’s Uniqueness Revealed

Each one of us is unique, and too often our one-of-a-kind identities do not reveal themselves through traditional coaching or mentoring methods. Leadership consulting and coaching process formulas only work to a point. How do we address that part of our personality that is not just about creating goals, strategies, and tasks to perform more efficiently? Our business-oriented activities too often cloak who we really are – our inner personal truths.

Our inner truths and beliefs are the real drivers behind all choices we make in our external life.

Once you reveal and own your inner truth, your true identity is revealed. Now the whole world will look different. Your choices and actions change as well. In your full authentic self, you become a more balanced self-realized leader of others. And it starts with the others reflections so that you can see inside yourself and then emanate true power; true leadership.

Entering the Labyrinth of Authentic Leadership

Entering the labyrinth of authentic leadership can rarely be done without having others involved in your awakening process. It also can not be done by merely understanding the concept. To really grok its value, and to see authentic transformation, this kind of work must be experienced in the day to day trials of your life. You must actually walk through the labyrinth of your own making, not just think about it. This often starts with a coach or mentor – someone who can support you as you move toward the root of personal insight. Insights that will include valuable tools for using on the job. Such as, becoming more clear about situational problems, the ability to recognize employee character behaviors, understanding resulting decisions that they make, and how to help each other evolve into the creation of collaborative solutions.

Realizing our authentic self is the true power source of all good leaders … Once obtained, they give it away freely.

You will also become skilled at both offering and receiving acknowledgment – from a place that goes beyond selfish ego. These are all unique and personal experiences to you and you alone. As you to awaken to a more authentic self, a personal transformational change will emerge from within you that affects not just you, but those around you as well.

A New Understanding of Leadership – Listen Up!

We are moving into a new understanding leadership and management that are no longer only about reaching targeted goals and objectives. Sure these are important, but they are less significant than the need for ‘authentic leadership’.

To understand what it means to be a leader today, we must be retaught and move away from traditional methods. You will not find absolute formulas or rigid processes for building on prescribed objectives.

Although sometimes useful, authentic practices tend to stay away from prescribed rational formulas and instead rely on a blending of your own and others intuitive instincts. The greatest challenge is learning to use your instinctual senses to listen deeply into yourself, as well as into others. Do not make your primary motive for listening to direct what you hear another say and direct them toward action. No. Instead listening is done guide through reflection, helping another to see their own aha’s. This is ‘empowerment’, which is the primary measure for how well authentic leaders are applying themselves.

Reevaluating Your Expectations

This is the first step toward becoming an evolved leader – an authentic leader, is to reevaluate your expectations. What are your true objectives and plans, based on your hidden personal motives? This can not be done alone. But done in a safe, nonjudgmental container, groups can work and learn together how to realize a deeper sense of self. By supporting each other, we reveal things that bring profound insight to who you are and how you perceive the world. Beyond that, your ability to support your team, family, or organization becomes more trusting and more meaningful. This is true leadership. Expectations in your role as leader have changed. Now you are moving toward an ‘authentic leadership’.

Imagine Leading and Being Lead in an Authentic Way

What would it mean for your team’s productivity and success if you acted as their mentor or coach, rather than as their manager or director? What if you shifted your ‘I’m in charge’ thinking, to enabling their charge?

What would happen if you shift your motivation from being an ‘authoritative director’ to being an ‘authentic leader’?

Start aiming at the outer ring of the target instead of the center, and watch what happens.

Written By Vic Desotelle VicDesotelle.com EMAIL VIC

A Practical Theory On Leadership & Collaboration – ‘The Shirtless Dancing Guy’

I got this video off of Charles Lemos’ site and was referred to it by Ben Roberts’ Facebook conversation. Derek Sivers gave this presentation at the TED Conference this week and got a standing ovation. It’s pretty brilliant in its takeaway. The video below is a healthy perspective on the collective’s role in leadership, especially the ‘first follower’. Watch how this natural form of taking the lead seeds the beginning of collaboration.

Here’s the transcript, with bold notes made by Charles. Thanks to Charles and Derik. 

If you’ve learned a lot about leadership and making a movement, then let’s watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons:

A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.

The 2nd follower is a turning point: it’s proof the first has done well. Now it’s not a lone nut, and it’s not two nuts. Three is a crowd and a crowd is news.

A movement must be public. Make sure outsiders see more than just the leader. Everyone needs to see the followers, because new followers emulate followers – not the leader.

Now here come 2 more, then 3 more. Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point! Now we’ve got a movement!

As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky. If they were on the fence before, there’s no reason not to join now. They won’t be ridiculed, they won’t stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry. Over the next minute you’ll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they’d be ridiculed for not joining.

And ladies and gentlemen that is how a movement is made! Let’s recap what we learned:

If you are a version of the shirtless dancing guy, all alone, remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals, making everything clearly about the movement, not you.

Be public. Be easy to follow!

But the biggest lesson here – did you catch it?

Leadership is over-glorified.

Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened:

It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.

There is no movement without the first follower.

We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective.

The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.

When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

Be a follower, join a movement. That’s how change happens.

About A More Advanced Form Of Leadership

My good friend Maria Kostelas from Flutes of the World is an exceptional thinker, innovator, musician, and writer. She shared some thoughts with me today. Read up …

Maria says …

“Thought leaders do not wait in silence. Nor do they wait for others’ minds to be opened, or for safe places to speak into. Today’s thought leaders are the openers of minds so that they too may participate in the leading of the group. They are modern day prophets who dare say “we,” knowing their words spring from a place of unity.”

She suggests this book …

The Art of Original Thinking: The Making of a Thought Leader” by Jan Phillips.  Have you heard of it?  She’s a good writer and quite an eloquent, (w)holistic-synthesizer, offering content that addresses individual needs in relation to corporate and global community, economic conditions, and… possibilities.

A quote from Jan Phillips:

“… And this is the great challenge for any emergent thought leader-to know that one’s ideas will be criticized and resisted, and yet to dare to speak, knowing that these thoughts are the only building blocks we have to a new and safer world. …”

“… Transformation originates in people who see a better way or a fairer world, people who reveal themselves, disclose their dreams, and unfold their hopes in the presence of others. And this very unfolding, this revelation of raw, unharnessed desire, this deep longing to be a force for good in the world is what inspires others to feel their own longings, to remember their own purpose, and to act, perhaps for the first time, in accordance with their inner spirit.”

Other points that Maria makes …

The poet Audre Lorde reminds us:

“… We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for the final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us… The transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation and that always seems fraught with danger. We fear the very visibility without which we also cannot truly live…and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which is also the source of our greatest strength.”

Howard Bloom, author of Global Brain and The Lucifer Principle, writes:

“Imagine what it would be like if at every staff meeting you were expected to put the care of the multitudes we mistakenly call “consumers” first. Imagine what it would be like to go to work each morning in a company that saw your passions as your greatest engines, your curiosities as your fuel, and your idealism as the pistons of your labors and of your soul. Imagine what it would be like if your superiors told you that the ultimate challenge was to tune your empathic abilities so you could sense the needs of your firm’s customers even before those customers quite knew what they hankered after.”

This is not just about your boss. That’s not what the new leadership is exactly. No, this stuff includes you too. And if you are a leader of others: Can you relate to this?! No?? Best you start.