Perhaps in a time when online personas and personal branding are the norms, it’s not surprising that we would also see the emergence of a concept that is essentially grounded in being true to ourselves. Over the last few years, the idea of authentic leadership has taken hold of our corporate imaginations. We are encouraged to be true to our values and told to seek authenticity in our bosses. It’s meant to indicate everything from honesty in the workplace to corporate morality.
All the chatter makes me wonder if we weren’t supporters of authentic leadership before, what were we supporting? Surely no one was championing that our leaders be inauthentic? I doubt that shareholders, employees or members ever thought, hey, hope that guy is a little hard to talk to, a -tad fake or – mildly dishonest.
The idea of authentic leadership first emerged in the 1960’s and originally focused on the activities of the organization rather than individual leaders. However, over time, it is an idea that has become grounded in what it means to be a powerful or effective leader.
Harvard offers courses in discovering your inner authentic leader. Forbes, Inc. and even Psychology Today offer up their opinions on what authentic leadership entails. Bill George, the contemporary Harvard guru of authentic leadership, described it this way in a 2015 Huffington Post article:
- Understand their purpose
- Practice solid values
- Lead with heart
- Establish connected relationships
- Demonstrate self-discipline
I’m can certainly relate to the idea of leading with heart and establishing connected relationships. It means that it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top, a concept that has been pervasive in management circles for years. Being an isolated decision maker is an idea that would make most reasonable people shy away from leadership roles and leave the door open to narcissists and egomaniacs…hmmm that explains so much.
It isn’t all that long ago that heart and connectedness would have been seen as weaknesses. It speaks volumes about the shift we have seen in business thinking over the past decade. I’m not sure if it’s the success of new entrepreneurs, who motivated their people with carrots instead of sticks. Or, whether it’s the fact that we see slightly more women at the helm of big successful organizations or if it’s just that common sense stepped in and said, organizations are run by people, not androids. Whatever the cause, it’s a move in the right direction.
- Catarina’s World: Be Yourself Instead of Parroting
- Harvard Business Review: The Authenticity Paradox
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