Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
In my mid-20s, I changed my career perspective and focused on working and growing within a humanitarian context. It was not my dream job, but then I discovered it was meaningful and gave me personal fulfilment by contributing something to society. I enjoyed it and worked with an INGO for more or less 15 years in various contexts (sometimes extreme ones) within a diverse environment/multicultural environment. These experiences allow me to perform continuous analyses of the interactions with others and fit in the best leadership style/method in each field assignment.
Now, I am starting my journey to develop my authentic leadership. The journey begins with developing my self-awareness and being kind to myself.
Discovering my authentic leadership is a process that requires discipline and long-term commitment.
Sun Tzu, a great Chinese General, a military strategist, said, “A leader leads by example and not by force”. Marshall Goldsmith emphasized that those who lead by example demonstrate passion. In my perspective, an authentic leader must lead by example and must clearly understand the vision and passion. Authenticity means genuine, authentic, facts-based, accurate, and reliable.
How can you discover your Authentic Leadership and lead by example? Firstly, you must know yourself. I believe it is a key component of leadership, as we can’t lead others if we are unaware of or understand who we are.
In their article “Discovering Your Authentic Leadership”, Bill George and his team remind us to know who we are before leading others. The article highlighted that the start of our authentic leadership is by understanding the story of our lives and challenges us with questions such as :
– What is the pain and fear that we have been through in our personal and professional life?
– What is the journey to go through the pain and consequences of each decision look like?
– What motivates us?
– What is our supporting mechanism?
– Do we walk alone, or do we seek help?
Lead for the success of others
Leadership is a relationship with others, and it creates success for others. The “Discovering your authentic leadership” article emphasises empowering people to lead and highlights that authentic leaders recognize that leadership is about others’ success. As decisions have a high probability of change, a leader needs to be transparent in the change agenda and increase the ownership of various stakeholders. An authentic leader will speak based on facts and share reliable information.
Leading others and standing for what ones believe, and sharing the vision will trigger stress. More responsibility means more stress, and this is a situation we can’t avoid.
Be creative as a team
The working environment often requires us to work and lead a team. A leader needs creativity to reach a significant objective and its end goal. In some cases, improvisation is required, and the exercise can be started with team brainstorming or discussion. Listening to and valuing others’ opinions will enrich the final decision results. Equally, discussing each decision’s consequences as a team is essential. Some situations can’t be avoided. Hence the risk can be mitigated together. As a leader, once you possess an understanding of self-awareness, you can understand how to respond to and communicate feedback from your team. It will increase the ability to manage a relationship with others and motivate the team.
Ask difficult questions
We might be afraid to address or share some questions with others. What questions can you raise to become a leader that leads by example and become an influencer that can add value to others? Which people in your life that impacting your leadership journey? What is your motivation? Am I happy with my life? Is my life well-balanced or well-integrated?
Build a personal strategy and branding
Hubert Rampersad launched Personal Balanced Scorecard (PBSC), which can assist someone in building personal ambition and personal brand. Building a personal brand that is authentic to our character requires honest analysis, and an understanding of personal ambitions will lead us better in defining vision and directions. The formula that Rampersad shared is PBSC = Personal critical success factors + Objectives + performance measures + Target + Improvement Action.
Focus on your strengths
I believe that to be successful, we also need to focus on our strengths and not on our weaknesses. Understanding our strengths allows us to handle our weaknesses. In their article “How to Play to Your Strength”, Morgan Roberts et al. mention Reflected Best Self (RBS) as a tool to discover who you are at your best or uncage us. This exercise can help us to find authenticity within ourselves.
Discovering authentic leadership can lead us from being excellent managers to becoming extraordinary leaders.
Discovering Your Authentic Leadership – George et al., Harvard Business Review, February 2007
Personal Balanced Scorecard: The Way to Individual Happiness, Personal – Dr Hubert K. Rampersad, published by Information Age Publishing in 2006
How to Play to Your Strengths – Morgan Roberts et al., Harvard Business Review, January 2005