Being authentic in leadership

Leaders often choose to orient themselves outwardly, that is focusing on the aims and goals of the organisation surrounding them. The organisational objectives guide strategic decision-making, and in some ways this is rightly so. However, those who operate to fulfill the objectives of others are simply following from someone else’s directives: not necessarily leading. This is one way to manage a business, but it certainly isn’t the best or most effective way to lead.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

The role of a leader is to provide strategic direction to those followers and subordinates around them, and this comes partly from knowing one’s true self. Followers mimic their leaders, and this extends to their behaviours. When a leader is only following basic objectives, there is no innovation, there is no creativity, there is only a chain of followers.

Luckily for most, this is something that can be solved. One way is to find one’s true self, and who a leader truly is as a person, looking inwardly and understanding themselves before they try to navigate everything around them (or their ‘external reality’). When we know who we are, then we can begin to feel comfort in expressing ourselves openly and honestly. Fear of judgment will probably always be there in some more self-conscious individuals, but it is often less evident in those who know who they are.

Authenticity isn’t a new concept, it’s been around for a while, it goes back to early Greek maxims such as:

“Know thyself.”

However, in a slightly more recent example, Shakespeare makes a similar remark in Hamlet as Polonius imparts final advice to his son Laertes leaving for Paris.

“This above all: To thine own self be true.” – William Shakespeare

Interestingly enough, his idea of authenticity did not end there.

“… And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

What we can understand from Shakespeare’s insights is that being true and honest to yourself or only in the privacy of your own home in not being authentic. The true self of leaders should be evident and obvious in the actions and the way they interact with others, particularly their followers.

Deception and a ‘false self’ used to make others like you may work in the short-term, but in the long-term most will see through the facade, and the trust and respect gained will be diminished.

Authenticity has a nice feel to it for followers,

If you as a leader follow only one thing or rule, then…

“Be yourself; because everyone else is taken.” – Oscar Wilde

*Image by Charlie Stinchcomb.

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