The qualities that organisations need in their leaders are not one’s that can be easily evoked through expectation. Telling someone to be more creative, more courageous, more decisive or more empathic rarely works. Why? Because the qualities and states of mind that underpin effective creativity, courage, decisiveness, and empathy are not one’s that depend only on positive intentions or expectations. To manifest as effective leadership, these qualities must emerge out of the interrelationship between individual talents and organisational needs.
So, my definition of authentic leadership states that we need to give equal weight to two aspects of experience:
- On the one hand, our deepest convictions and aspirations
- On the other, our appreciation of the external goals and needs of our colleagues, of our organisation, and of the wider environment
Authenticity is the creative marriage of inner and outer conditions, such that we can make an optimal contribution for ourselves and for others.
This emphasis on authenticity lies at the heart of my approach to leadership and organisation development. Whether in working with individuals, teams, or with groups of managers, the aim is to bring into view the linkages and tensions between personal authenticity and social authenticity, and so support people in finding their most creative and vital response to their leadership challenges.
The focus on personal authenticity ensures that individuals tune into what really matters to them; what gets them out of bed in the morning, what sparks their vitality, what enables them to strive and persevere in the face of difficulty.
The focus on social authenticity ensures that individuals tune into the priorities and strategic imperatives of the organisation, what positive impact their organisation is seeking to make on its customers, what really matters to their colleagues and stakeholders.
Authentic leadership arises naturally when leaders can allow new solutions to emerge from the creative tension of their personal and social authenticity.