The concept of “Authentic Leadership” was largely popularized by Harvard Business School professor, Bill George, author of the best-seller Authentic Leadership. When it comes to being an authentic leader, George states, “First you will have to understand yourself, because the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself. Second, to be an effective leader, you must take responsibility for your own development.” There are countless best sellers, articles, and “how-to” posts regarding how to be your “best self”, in addition to how to be relatable and effective as a leader, but how can we take action? It’s one thing to read about it, but what can we actually do? Consider the following methods and practices to begin the path to authentic leadership.
Cultivate Your Inner Energy – Authenticity is ultimately based on the ability to know yourself and who you are, what you want to accomplish, and what role you want to take on in the world. Many philosophers and notorious “thinkers”, from Aristotle to Steve Jobs, have claimed the importance of following that “inner voice” that comes with possessing full understanding of your being. Some practices that may help to foster you inner ‘voice’ or energy include being “in the moment” and developing rituals. Attempt to focus on your daily tasks, regardless of how mundane they may be. If you’re going to do something, do it well - you will learn a lot about what’s important to you. Having rituals instills in us the importance of hard work through positive energy. They also teach us discipline, deliberation, and meditation.
Suffer Well- Authentic leaders are typically the pioneers of change. This often means venturing into the unknown and abandoning our basic need for stability and comfort. Accepting pain and challenge is a monumental part of our personal growth, and believe it or not, requires deliberate practice. Something you can do to learn how to better accept and work through difficult times is to spend time with uplifting people. These are people that know how to overcome problems and stay positive even in the most difficult of circumstances. The people we choose to surround ourselves with have a direct effect on our successes and failures, therefore, it’s important to choose wisely. It is important to remember those who support us and our goals, and aim to cultivate those relationships.
Dare to Do – One’s highest potential is reached by the willingness to take risks, to take that leap off the ledge – authentic leaders are willing to take risks, regardless of how big, that align with beliefs and values. In order to train ourselves to take the risks, we must strive for excellence not perfection and possess flexibility. Authentic leaders are committed to achieving excellence in everything they do, as aiming for perfection implies aiming for the end-all, be-all of something. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to raise your standards and challenge yourself. Also, aim to have the faith, resilience, and adaptability to ride out all of life’s ups and downs.
Becoming an authentic leader is no easy task and, like most other things, will take time, excess effort, and dedication. Although it may seem an arduous tasks, the possibilities are endless when you begin to observe the impact you can have on the people around you.
I would like to thank Jennie Moussa at Fidelity for her help on preparing this article with me. Don’t forget, you can email me at Peggy@Consultants2Go.com with any questions you might have and I’ll be glad to answer them. You can also follow my business and me on Twitter @peggymchale and @consultants2go.