Content originally taken from eBella Magazine, “Authentic Leadership” by Kelly Townsend.
Effective leadership doesn’t come from knowing what leaders do, or the characteristics or styles of noteworthy leaders. Leadership doesn’t come from trying to remember and follow techniques from books on the subject, either. And it certainly doesn’t come from being in a position of authority. This may surprise you but it’s true.
Are You a Leader?
Who you are, is how you lead, and it shows up as how you are being in any moment. How you’re being shapes the way you act. In other words: If you’re being angry or confused, you’ll likely act that way. If you’re confident and at ease, you’ll act that way, too.
If you’re not being a leader, and you try to act like a leader, you’re likely to fail because you’re just pretending. Harvard Professor Chris Argyris, who’s studied the subject of inauthenticity, puts it this way: “People consistently act inconsistently; unaware of the contradiction between their espoused theory and their theory-in-use, between the way they think they are acting and the way they really act.”
So How do Leaders Act?
What has leaders act inconsistently with the way they think they’re acting, is that they’re often being driven by functional constraints that haven’t been realized. This leaves us unaware of our mental blind spots. In other words, we’re being inauthentic, but we don’t even realize it. It’s human nature. Discovering these inauthenticities will take some work and a little courage, since most of us want to avoid it at all costs.
When I do leadership coaching and organizational transformation, I find that there are two major pitfalls that trip up leaders. The first is being admired. Often people in a position of power or what you may call leadership are admired within the company, by co-workers or by superiors even. When this happens, we’re often not able to be honest when tough decisions need to be made because we’re afraid we’ll lose admiration from co-workers and friends.
We pretend all is well in our business to hide the fact that we’re struggling. The other misstep leaders often make is fueled by the desire to look good and avoid looking bad. We won’t tell the truth when we’re struggling and we make the same mistakes over and over again rather than ask for help. Why? Because we fear our co-workers, colleagues or friends will think less of us. If these actions sound familiar, don’t fret. We’re all guilty in some way — it comes with being human.
Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to help create authenticity in the workplace and in turn, be a better leader within your organization.
Great leaders are noteworthy because they come to grips with these foibles. They don’t eliminate them, but they learn to master these weaknesses when leading through practice, leadership training, and business coaching. Being a leader requires that you be absolutely authentic. It truly requires courage to inspire others to be authentic as well.
Are you ready to take that first step in the effective exercise of leadership?