By Natanya Rutstein
The essence of authentic leadership is rooted in knowing who you are and what you stand for, together with the ability to regularly act in accordance with these beliefs. This insight, coupled with the commitment to continuous self-development, will guide leaders in successfully mobilising others in pursuit of a common purpose and towards the achievement of the organisation’s strategic objectives.
Based on the research of Leadership Guru, Phil George in his books Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, and True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, here are four practical suggestions that you can begin to implement as you embark on your journey of self-discovery and to leading with authenticity.
- START WITH EXPLORING YOUR LIFE STORIES
Your life story provides the context for your experiences. Explore those experiences which have had the greatest impact on your life and how they have influenced your values, principles and leadership purpose. If you understand where you have come from it is much easier to know where you would like to go and how you plan to get there. These foundational values and passions can be channelled into discovering your own unique leadership style and purpose, and to leading with passion and conviction.
- WORK ON BECOMING MORE SELF-AWARE
A survey of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council members recommended self-awareness as the most important capability for leaders to develop. Developing your self-awareness will assist you in developing an in-depth understanding of your unique personal traits and values, your strengths and weaknesses, the impact of your behaviour on others as well as how you respond to the behaviour of those around you. In order to develop greater self-awareness, leaders can:
- Actively and openly seek and listen to honest feedback from colleagues, friends, and subordinates about themselves and their leadership style.
- Make use of more formal methods of self-discovery, such as 360-profiles, personality profiles, strength finder and emotional intelligence assessments.
- Take the time to disconnect from the pervasive influences of technology in both your business and personal life and reflect on current issues and challenges that you might be facing.
- Exercise, spend time in nature, meditate or simply make the time to take a walk or sit quietly to reflect privately.
- KNOW YOUR VALUES AND WALK THE TALK
Leading with authenticity requires an in-depth understanding of your intrinsic values and convictions. If you are leading from a solid foundation of clearly understood morals and values, there should be a congruency between your beliefs, actions and what you say. This in turn, will inspire a loyalty and trust amongst your employees as you will be perceived as acting honestly and with authenticity. Although you may have to adapt your leadership style to meet situational requirements, if this congruency exists, your actions cannot be interpreted as inauthentic.
- DISCOVER AND BALANCE YOUR MOTIVATIONS
Knowing your values and leadership purpose will guide you in discovering what motivates you, both extrinsically and intrinsically. Extrinsic motivators such as material possessions, money and titles can only take you so far and need to be balanced out with intrinsic motivators which will provide a more meaningful and sustainable measure of success and sense of purpose and fulfilment. Discovering both your extrinsic and intrinsic motivation takes honest self-evaluation, and the willingness to explore how to bring balance between the two.
The journey to discovering your authentic leadership style will require an honest look in the mirror, and the courage to keep doing so as you continue to reflect on your life experiences and unearth your authentic values and motives. As George wrote in his book True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, “the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself”