(This is the first in several posts about authentic leadership)
How can I be an authentic leader?
This is probably the question I get asked more than any other on leadership development programmes.
How can I adopt all these leadership behaviours you’re telling me about, act motivated when I feel deflated, pretend to support positions and decisions I don’t agree with, and at the same time call myself an “authentic” leader?
The thing is, it’s the wrong question to ask because “authenticity” isn’t the point.
Leaders who worry about being “authentic” are putting themselves in the centre and forgetting that leadership isn’t about them: leadership is about influencing and inspiring other people (other people who are our social equals and who shouldn’t have to put up with our crap) to do something.
The day you become a leader, it becomes about themJack Welch
Or to put it in a potentially brilliant (or potentially confusing) way: leadership isn’t about the leader, it’s about the ship.
So “authentic” is only good if it helps us influence and inspire others, it’s not necessarily good in itself.
In Venn diagram form:
This means that Person A is a poor leader despite being authentic.
They are unprofessional, quite possibly self-indulgent, and as they mistakenly seem to think we have to put with aspects of their “authentic self” which are unhelpful to leadership.
They are probably mistakenly thinking they are the star of the show and that leadership is all about them.
This approach might have some success when leading a cult, especially when backed up with a high level of competence (Steve Jobs maybe?), but it’s at best clumsy and exclusive (Donald Trump maybe?), most usually it’s ineffective and disrespectful.Continue reading “Leadership isn’t about the leader, it’s about the ship”