How To Become An Authentic Leader
Authentic Leadership is for those who
choose to ‘BE change’ as the way to ‘SEE change’
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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