The Mark of an Authentic Leader
Don’t you wish we could see through each person professing to be a leader?
Throughout our history, often unknowingly, we’ve allowed liars, thieves, cheaters, wimps, abusers of power and unscrupulous people to rule.
If it was only possible to discern who are authentic before we vote certain politicians into power, or before we place our trust on certain people and let them lead us, our world would certainly be a much better place. People who we vote to put in government, some people we put on pedestals and some of those who lead us at work betray our trust and expectations.
We’ve been victims of spin, propaganda, misinformation, manipulation, deception and treachery by our so-called leaders. They are so-called leaders because they are NOT authentic leaders. I’m beginning to think, though this is just my opinion, there are no good or bad leaders. Good leaders are authentic leaders. Bad leaders are only wannabes.
I acknowledge being a leader, a genuine leader, is not easy. Leading—be it a country, an organisation, a committee, a large group or a small team—is a tremendous responsibility. It’s hard work! Would-be leaders who want to lodge themselves in power, or current leaders who want to hold on to their position should do what they professed to do, and do what they were voted or hired to do. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat – get out of the kitchen, for those who easily crack under the pressure.
I’ve certainly worked with and for wonderful leaders. I know authentic leaders are out there fulfilling roles that are rightfully theirs and some potential authentic leaders waiting in the wings. However, we also know there are crackpots, unethical or clueless people who, due to misrepresentation or, sometimes, luck, are currently in leadership roles who have no clue how to lead people in a genuine way.
Like the word love, leadership has no one, consistent definition. I’m still on the lookout for the best meaning as I haven’t found THE ONE. On the web, you’ll find that various meanings are attached to the word leadership, like position, roles, functions, styles, capabilities, principles, skills, characteristics, behaviours, qualities and essence.
Managing and leading, as you know, are two clearly different things. Changingminds.org says “managers focus on work; leaders focus on people” and that “managers have subordinates; leaders have followers”.
Being a good manager doesn’t automatically mean being a good leader. A good leader isn’t just being a boss or being a manager. Being a boss is a status, and being a good manager can be taught. However, being an authentic leader, it seems to me, and contrary to common wisdom, is born, not made. Whatever is the truth, one thing cannot be disputed: you have to have certain qualities, or essences as I prefer to call them, to be bestowed the honour of being called an authentic leader.
Authentic leadership is described by a respected spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen as caring a lot about “a higher purpose, a higher principle, a higher goal that we are willing to make the most important sacrifices for the sake of what we are aspiring to accomplish. It means we care so passionately about others also reaching that goal that we unhesitatingly sacrifice our own peace of mind, comfort, and security in order for them to succeed.”
Leadership expert and author, Robin Sharma, says one can lead without a title. Joe Farcht, another author on leadership suggests building personal leadership precedes building organisational leadership. In my thinking, to be an organisational leader, you must first pass some tests. Once you pass and continue to embody the essences, then you receive the invisible stamp or mark of authentic leadership – the heart.
In my increasing quest to separate the wheat from the chaff of leaders, I hand-pick five essences of an authentic leader. I’ve only formed five because there is a set of traits “embedded” within each essence. If you’re missing any of these, I’d say learn or acquire them first, if it’s even possible, before you boldly attempt to take on a leadership role. I believe you don’t have to have leadership experience to be a successful leader. If you have the mark of a leader, then other essential qualities of a leader not embodied within these essences can be learned, acquired or honed before or while acting in your role.
I’d like to add that there is one extra and interesting characteristic that I have not included within the essences. If you have this or if you know how to use this, can not only help you but also those around you and those you lead. If used inappropriately, it could backfire, but if used effectively can help improve morale.
To be continued…
Disclaimer: I’m no expert on authentic leadership but I have a keen interest in this topic, as well as in personal leadership.