Leading authentically

24.11.2016 |

Episode #6 of the course How to be a more mindful leader by The Plato Project


Having built a sense of what purpose means for leadership and why it matters, the challenge is to then understand how to make purposeful leadership happen. The role for reflection and personal self-awareness is implicit in reinforcing the role of Virtues, Purposes, and Passion. But these all need to be actions that are recognizable by teams; they need to be brought into practice.

Alan Lawton and Iliana Páez, in their model of interlocking Virtues, Purposes, and Practices, consider the virtues of integrity and authenticity as the most significant for great leadership. These virtues are described as fundamental to ethical leadership. They are virtues that are deeply rooted in self-awareness but are expressed in interactions with people. They are, by necessity, both about being and doing.

Because integrity and authenticity are also about doing, this suggests that they need to be closely linked with Practices. Leading authentically is not just a state of mind; it is primarily a set of behaviors—behaviors that are grounded in self-awareness and express a high level of self-awareness. They are summarized in Kevin Kruse’s Forbes article “What Is Authentic Leadership?”:

1. Self-aware and genuine
2. Mission-driven and focused on results
3. Led with heart
4. Focused on the long term


The action implicit in the four attributes of authentic leaders

Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine
They understand that their self-actualization is an endless journey. They show their real selves to their followers, and they don’t hide mistakes or weaknesses.

Authentic leaders are mission-driven and focused on results
They don’t reflect on the mission but take the steps necessary to achieve results consistent with the mission. They do not pursue their own power, money, or ego.

Authentic leaders lead with their heart
They are not afraid to show their emotions or vulnerability. They take steps to connect with their employees on a human level. They exercise empathy.

Authentic leaders focus on the long term
The actions they take are oriented toward long-term value, not beating short-term estimates. They work hard and are patient.

While purpose is important, it needs to be aligned first with business strategy, and most importantly, with action. John Baldoni summarizes the role of a leader in creating a purposeful organization, saying that:

A leader must “connect the dots” between what an employee does and why it matters to the organization.”

The authentic leader brings about the organization’s purpose in a way that is wholly and naturally expressed through the leader’s actions.

Again, authenticity requires self-awareness and action. It is reflective action that enables purpose to be expressed through business strategy, and the authentic leader is vital in translating the organization’s aspirations into the day-to-day reality of business operations.

“Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” — Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook


Recommended book

“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek


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