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Authentic Leadership

In organizations, our success as leaders is measured by the degree to which we’ve mastered the external environment and delivered results in the form of revenues, profits, new product breakthroughs, cost savings, or market share increases.

After 20 years of wrestling with this question, I’ve come to this simple yet profound realization. Leadership is not simply something we do. It comes from somewhere inside us. Leadership is a process, an intimate expression of who we are. It’s our being in action. At its deepest level, leadership is authentic self-expression that creates value.

Core Principles

Viewing leadership from this essential vantage point, we can see there are three core principles to guide us:

  • How authentic are we?
  • How deep and broad is our self-expression?
  • How much value are we creating?

The foundation of leadership is authenticity. How do we go about expressing ourselves more authentically? I constantly challenge clients to ask, “Where is my leadership coming from?” Do our actions originate from deep within ourselves, or are they coming from a more superficial, limited place? Is our leadership arising from our character, the essence of who we are? Or is it only coming from our persona, the external personality we’ve created to cope with life circumstances?

I remember working with an executive who believed, because he was at the top of the organization, he must always have all the answers, and that if he revealed any limitations others would perceive him as weak or inadequate. Eventually, in his need to always be “right,” he made several errors and brought his organization to a crisis. With our coaching, he used the crisis to break from his old pattern. He faced up to his troops, acknowledged his mistakes, and asked for their help Leaders must expand their competencies from simply getting results to authentically adding value through synergy. One of our clients, Jack, was an incredibly gifted executive; his talent and intelligence were apparent in everything he did. At early stages of his career his cognitive and intellectual skills helped him to excel in many challenging, complex assignments.

To help Jack break through his self-limiting view, we asked him to outline key events in his life over the past two weeks by focusing on the people who had made each event possible. It didn’t take him long to recognize the web of interdependence that was supporting his success. He became aware of initiatives for which he had taken credit and for which he now needed to acknowledge others. He was beginning to genuinely bridge personal power with synergy power to enhance his contribution. One of the most crucial development challenges for most leaders is moving from authentic self-expression to effectiveness by applying their personal power to create value Five Touchstones From observing authentic leaders.

• Touchstone One: Know Yourself Authentically.

• Touchstone Two: Listen Authentically.

• Touchstone Three: Express Authentically.

• Touchstone Four: Appreciate Authentically.

• Touchstone Five: Serve Authentically.

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