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The Scholz Report
February 2015


Do You Work for an Authentic Leader?


I believe that most employees seek meaning and fulfillment at work. I know this because when I talk to people one-on-one in organizations most are willing to work really hard as long as it’s for authentic, trustworthy leaders. 

But sadly, surveys show that employee morale is at an all-time low. A 2013 Gallup poll found that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work and psychologically committed to their jobs. 

People are not easily fooled or quick to offer their loyalty, which explains why inauthentic leaders struggle to hire and retain exceptional staffers. 

Authentic leaders have mastered three key skills: clear vision, formulating sound strategies and finding approaches that inspire others to act. To join this elite club, you must align people around a common purpose and set of values. As they perform at peak levels, they’ll know precisely what’s expected of them.

The Problems with Authenticity
While virtually every leader has a sense of what “authenticity” means, few know how to develop it as a skill. To complicate matters, being authentic in today’s rapidly evolving global marketplace has its share of challenges. 

As  Professor Herminia Ibarra points out in Harvard Business Review (January 2015), a too-rigid view of oneself can be an obstacle to leading effectively. Three common leadership pitfalls include:

1. Being true to yourself. Which self? Depending on your role and the context, you show up differently. You grow and shift with experience and evolve into new roles. How can you be authentic to a future self that is uncertain and unformed?

2. Maintaining strict coherence between what you feel and what you say or do. You lose credibility as a leader if you disclose everything you think and feel, especially when you’re unproven. 

3. Making values-based decisions. When you move into a bigger role, values shaped by past experiences can misguide you. In the face of new challenges, old decisions may produce authentic, but wrong, behaviors that fail to suit new situations.

Use Your Life Stories 
The journey to authentic leadership begins with understanding your life story, which provides a context for your experiences. Your story is powered by experiences that can help you inspire others and influence them to follow your lead.

That said, life stories are not always pretty. While most of us can reframe negative experiences in a positive light, authenticity requires us to face up to our mistakes and failures. An honest appraisal may prove uncomfortable, but it’s necessary for self-improvement. It also paves the way for authenticity and resilience.

Practice Values and Principles
The values that form the basis for authentic leadership are derived from your beliefs and convictions, but you cannot truly know them until they’re tested under pressure. 

It is relatively easy to list your values and to live by them when things are going well. ~ Bill George, Finding Your True North: A Personal Guide

Leadership principles are values translated into action. Without action that supports your stated values, you cannot be authentic. The hard decisions you make reflect what you truly value.

Balance Your Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivations
If you’re like most leaders, you may be reluctant to admit that you measure your success against the outside world’s parameters. You enjoy the recognition and status that come with promotions and financial rewards. 

But intrinsic motivations are derived from your life’s meaning and purpose. They’re closely linked to your life story and how you frame it (i.e., personal growth, helping other people develop, social causes, making a difference in the world). 

Authenticity requires you to balance your desire for external validation with the intrinsic motivations that provide fulfillment at work.

Build a Strong Support Team
Authentic leaders build extraordinary support teams to help them stay on course. Team members provide counsel in times of uncertainty, offer extra assistance in difficult times and share in celebrations of success. 

Support teams consist of spouses and families, close friends and colleagues, and mentors and coaches. Leaders must give as much to their supporters as they receive from them. Only then can mutually beneficial relationships develop.

Develop Your Authenticity
In “Your Development as an Authentic Leader” (Harvard Business Review, February 2007), Bill George, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean and Diana Mayer urge leaders to ask themselves the following questions:

1. Which people and experiences in your early life had the greatest impact on you?

2. Which tools do you use to become self-aware?
  • What is your authentic self?
  • In which moments do you say to yourself, “This is the real me?”
3. Name your most deeply held values.
  • Where did they come from?
  • Have your values changed significantly since your childhood? 
  • How do your values inform your actions?
4. What motivates you extrinsically?
  • What are your intrinsic motivations?
  • How do you balance extrinsic and intrinsic motivations?
5. What kind of support team do you have?
  • How can your support team make you a more authentic leader? 
  • How should you diversify your team to broaden your perspective?
6. Is your life integrated?
  • Are you able to be the same person in all aspects of your life (personal, work, family and community)?
  • If not, what’s holding you back?
7. What does authenticity mean in your life?
  • Are you a more effective leader when you behave authentically?
  • Have you ever paid a price for your authenticity? Was it worth it?
8. What steps can you take today, tomorrow and over the next year to develop authentic leadership?

Authentic leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently, and lead with their hearts and heads. They establish long-term, meaningful relationships and have the self-discipline to get results. They know who they are.

Ultimately, superior results over a sustained period make for an authentic leader. It may be possible to drive short-term outcomes without being authentic, but authentic leadership is the only way we know to create sustainable long-term results.

Expand Your Leadership Authenticity
While much has been written about the value of authenticity, it still remains elusive and few executives understand how to develop it as a leadership skill. Three books that delve deeply into the art of developing as an authentic leader are:
  1. Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, Bill George, 2003
  2. Finding Your True North: A Personal Guide, Bill George, Peter Sims, 2009
  3. Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?: What It Takes To Be An Authentic Leader, Robert Goffee, Gareth Jones, 2006
I recommend reading all three, if you haven’t done so already. I’d love to hear from you. Do you or have you ever worked for a truly authentic leader? I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here and on LinkedIn.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Quote of the Month

 
"Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and it is character."
-
Horace Greeley
 
What's Chip Reading?

What's Chip Reading?


 

Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, 2007 Edition, Published by Wilder Publications
 
Think and Grow Rich is a source document.  Like many look to the Bible as the source of inspiration, so every coach, motivational speaker and those interested in self-development  flock to this tome. They may not know it, but every bit of self help literature published today gives a nod to Think and Grow Rich.  
 
Napoleon Hill was the Anthony Robbins, the Rhonda Byrnes, the Jim Rohn and the John Maxwell of his time.  His message is “think it, be it”.  Simple as that.  You can see traces of his writings in all of what has come after.  For instance, Chapter 2 is “Desire, the Starting Point of all Achievement”.  The third is “Faith, Visualization of, and Belief in, Attainment of Desire.”  
 
This book deserves a place in your leadership bookshelf.  If you haven’t read this book you might want to consider it. You will be glad you did.  If you have read it before, pick it up again!  Each time you will find something you missed the last time you read it. 



Need a book recommendation?
See Chip's recommended reading, complete with a brief summary and review.


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