Thursday, June 21, 2007

Some good lessons in leadership.

Leadership demands the expression of an authentic self. Try to lead like someone else - say, Jack Welch, Richard Branson or Michael Dell - and you will fail. Employees will not follow a CEO who invests little of himself in his leadership behaviours. People want to be led by someone real. Leaders and followers both associate authenticity with sincerity, honesty, and integrity. It is the real thing - the attribute that uniquely defines great leaders.

But while the expression of an authentic self is necessary for great leadership, the concept of authenticity is often misunderstood, not least by leaders themselves. They often assume that authenticity is an innate quality - that a person is either authentic or not. In fact, authenticity is a quality that others must attribute to you. No leader can look into a mirror and say, "I am authentic." A person cannot be authentic on his or her own. Authenticity is largely defined by what other people see in you and, as such, can to a great extent be controlled by you. If authenticity were purely an innate quality, there would be little you could do to manage it and, therefore, little you could do to make yourself more effective as a leader.

The ability to strike a balance, and to preserve one's authenticity in the process, is precisely what distinguishes great leaders from other executives. The challenge of great leadership is exactly that of managing one's authenticity, paradoxical though it sounds. (click for entire article)

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