If you want to lead others, you need to lead yourself first. For organizations wanting to transform workplace cultures, there are many steps to take. One of the things that successful firms do is ask its leaders to reflect on their own leadership. Often this introspection is guided by a leadership coach, whether internal or external to the organization. This coaching relationship allows leaders to consider the changes they have to make themselves to adapt to a changing work environment.
Coaching has many benefits for the individual and the firm itself. Leaders address specific gaps in their skill sets, whether those are related to communication, interpersonal effectiveness, employee development, decision-making, or managing up. For the firm, the coaching experience provides very real opportunities to challenge leaders by getting them to collectively address behaviors that when changed will benefit the whole enterprise. One key element of coaching is the development of a new group of what we call authentic leaders. These are executives who lead with purpose and passion. They lead from the heart.
Authentic leaders need to look inwardly, regardless of how uncomfortable they are with doing so or what they find. Authenticity comes from this self-exam. It starts by identifying and defining the values one holds and how to adapt to changes without undue emotion. There is an old adage that one does not choose to become a leader. They are made when others choose to follow. Others will only choose to follow willingly if the leader has identified the blind spots that can be barriers to effective relationships results.
Authentic Leaders Share Many of the Same Traits
Think about leaders you consider to be authentic, with the integrity and convictions you admire. It’s likely they have many of the characteristics described below.
- Integrity that is practiced with consistency through actions taken and words used.
- Self-awareness that reduces the negative emotions of jealousy, anger, pride, and distrust.
- Active listening to and observing, with compassion, what others say and do, and what they do not say or do.
- Respect for and attention to the perspectives, insights, opinions and feedback of others. Holding others’ views as equally as valid.
- Resisting the urge to take things personally or making assumptions about others, decisions, or outcomes.
- Seeing others as peers, regardless of rank.
- Abstaining from gossip, innuendo and criticism of others within the organization.
- Being invested in the greater good and not individual success, while being quick to recognize the contributions others have made to a project
Authentic leadership cannot be taught, but it can be guided. Effective leadership coaches and supervisors work with employees to help leaders discover their authentic selves. This authentic leadership is critical when firms are undergoing a cultural transformation. Leaders who act with humility, genuine intention, flexibility, courage and gratitude will serve the organization more effectively during times of uncertainty. In addition, their influence will likely permeate to other leaders.