Authentic leaders are a special breed of people. They know who they are and this self-awareness empowers them to transform their life and the lives of those they lead. Their authenticity builds loyalty, trust, collaboration, engagement and commitment. It forges positive change in their teams, their company, their community and their industry. They are the new, emerging force in an ever changing arena.
Authentic leaders recognize that leadership is an experience. It’s an experience not only for the leader but also for those who are being led.
The experience for the leader is the act of personally observing, encountering, and undergoing something. No matter how many people are being led or what they are being led toward or away from, the leader will go through a personal experience, encountering challenges and undergoing successes. It is a unique type of learning.
The experience for those being led is transformation. Sustainable transformation takes place when team members have the experience of being led by leaders who personally observe, encounter and undergo something in ways that are engaging and empowering.
That is the transformational experience of authentic leadership and corporations successfully transform their organizations when they have authentic leaders.
The need for authentic leaders has accelerated in recent years
One reason is because some leaders in the corporate world still view leadership from the style that was developed in the industrial age.
This was around 1760 when it was discovered that production could be increased with an assembly line process where employees performed a single or simplified task as quickly as possible. The goal was to lead employees to work faster, more efficiently and produce higher numbers of product in shorter timeframes.
Since leadership focused on the ability to motivate faster performance there was little time or concern for the personality of the employee, what they brought to the table as an individual and how much personal satisfaction they gained from the job. If employees were not happy, management just replaced them with another ‘robot-like’ worker who could do the job faster.
Today’s world is different. We are experiencing the digital/information age where employees are expected to think critically on multiple topics using all the readily available information to build on current knowledge. Leadership in this era motivates employees to perform their best by identifying problems, offering solutions, taking action and communicating soundly.
As we continue to evolve, the next era is emerging. It is the empowerment age where the focus is recognizing employee's natural, authentic gifts and talents and integrating those attributes into the work environment. Work then becomes meaningful because the work that is done is aligned with the employee’s personal quest. The work enables the employee to use and develop the natural gifts they were born with which are the things they find interest in, find easy to do and generally do very well.
How do leaders transform themselves and their organizations to leave industrial age leadership, evolve through the digital/information age to an empowerment style of leadership?
The answer lies in Authentic Leadership
Since authentic leaders know their personal strengths and vulnerabilities, they lead with awareness of their shortcomings and how to compensate for them. This awareness of self allows them to build rapport, improves the quality of their communication skills, and their ability to engage their workforce. They become standard bearer role models for their organizations and society as a whole.
For over 30 years I studied concepts of authenticity and authentic leadership. My quest began at the age of 28 with the need to understand myself so that I could make decisions about my future. During my journey I led several organizations and had a chance to understand, first hand, the importance of being authentic as a leader. I had no idea I would gain the insight that I now love to share.
The foundation of my findings is that we all have three voices within us. We have an Inner Voice that no one hears but us, an Outer Voice that is how we are perceived by others and an Expressive Voice which represents who we have become.
Our Inner Voice is our personal GPS system and exists to help us stay safe and be true to our purpose. Our challenge with the Inner Voice is to recognize, trust and follow it. Authentic Leaders have mastered this skill. They also recognize that the Inner Voice of the organization lies within the employees. They are the front line and have a perspective because of their positioning in the company. Their view of the organization provides valuable insight into its inner workings, if leaders respect, trust and learn from their wisdom.
The second important voice is the Outer Voice. This is the voice of appearance, how you look and the impression that people make when they meet you. The Outer Voice is the one that gets the most attention because it is easily seen and touched. No one knows what goes on in an individual’s Inner Voice in contrast to the Outer Voice which is very visual and tangible.
People see and judge others based on how they look
They also judge based on who someone associates with and how much wealth that person is assumed to have. These make up the Outer Voice in the same way that marketing partners and sales teams become the Outer Voice of the organization.
Then there’s the Expressive Voice. This voice represents who you have become, how you are behaving, performing, and expressing yourself. How do you share your personality, natural gifts and talents with your team? What opportunity do team members have to share their gifts and talents at work?
Does the organization respect and provide opportunities to recognize the gifts employees bring to the workplace? How does the organization express itself in the community? Authentic leaders recognize that when team members align their natural gifts and talents with the work they do, they feel that their contribution is more meaningful. This enables them to be more productive and more content in the workplace.
When leaders become authentic, they are in the position to lead experiences that transform the organizations they work with. They empower teams and build loyalty, trustworthiness, collaboration, engagement and commitment. They have an attitude of gratitude and work diligently toward creating and sustaining success.
When authentic leaders lead the experiences that enable the development of an empowerment culture, they engage employees on all levels. The experiences produce top performers who offer meaningful contributions to the evolution of the company and generally feel great about their contribution. This then ignites transformation in the direction that benefits the entire organization and why we need authentic leadership, now.
Norma Hollis is the Chief Authenticity Officer at Authenticity U. She's a trainer, speaker, master coach, and author, and can be reached online at www.normahollis.com. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.