Authentic Leadership rises to the top

Posted on July 7, 2014 by Aidan

Leadership theory and practice has evolved through the last few decades partly due to increased understanding and partly through the change in followers and what followers want. In 2014 Authentic Leadership is becoming established as a style of Leadership most suited to the modern context. It focuses on who the Leader is, why the Leader is doing what they are doing and what is the Leaders “Brand”. Bill George, one key exponent of the Authentic Leadership model, teaches it as part of the Harvard MBA. Bill drove the company’s share value at Medtronic from 1.1 Billion to 60 Billion in 10 years with this Leadership style.

Authentic leaders are self-motivated individuals who are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. They show their true selves to people around them. They do not act one way in private and another in public and they don’t hide their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. They really are team players putting the mission and the goals of the organization ahead of their own self-interest doing the job in pursuit of results rather than for their own power, money or ego.  They do what Bill George calls “leading from their heart”, rather than just their minds building and sustaining the leader’s legitimacy through honest trust based relationships with followers are built on an ethical foundation. They truly and openly value follower input, rather than paying it lip service, which drives motivation, agility and engagement.

By building trust and generating enthusiastic support from their subordinates, authentic leaders are able to improve individual and team performance. This approach is at the core of our Leadership Development at Adeo Consulting as an alternative to leaders who emphasize only profit and share price over people and ethics. As Bill George says, most people can get the metrics right but can they do the hard bit – the soft or people skills. Can your Leaders empower, motivate and engage their people and align them with the organisations goals – for their own reasons?

Key Skills for Authentic Leadership:

1. Self-Awareness (“Know Thyself”).

A prerequisite for being an authentic leader is knowing your own strengths, limitations, and values. Knowing what you stand for and what you value is critical. Moreover, self-awareness is needed in order to develop the other components of authentic leadership.

2. Relational Transparency (“Be Genuine”).

This involves being honest and straightforward in dealing with others. An authentic leader does not play games or have a hidden agenda. You know where you stand with an authentic leader.

3. Balanced Processing (“Be Fair-Minded”).

An effective authentic leader solicits opposing viewpoints and considers all options before choosing a course of action. There is no impulsive action or “hidden agendas”–plans are well thought out and openly discussed.

4. Internalized Moral Perspective (“Do the Right Thing”).

An authentic leader has an ethical core. She or he knows the right thing to do and is driven by a concern for ethics and fairness.

Great leaders continually self-develop. They improve not only their organisations but themselves. They see this as key to adapting to the constant change in their environment and as a natural reaction to competition in their market-place. If your Leaders become dead in the water, so will your Organisation.

Aidan Higgins