Real leaders are true to their principals, willing to admit mistakes and accept responsibility and capable of emerging whole and sound when tested. Authenticity is a particular signature of real leaders – a connecting thread that makes every step in their life journey into a unified whole. It brings all the other qualities of leaders together in a satisfying combination, just as a special spice or a distinct herb can create harmony among the various ingredients that give a meal a memorable flavour. Authentic leaders are able to connect with others so the other are eager to embrace the message and vision.
When we think of leaders who have inspired millions to join great causes, we usually think of men and women of deep authenticity – leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, with his profound personal commitment to Indian independence and non-violent resistance; Nelson Mandela, who sacrificed 27 years in prison before seeing his vision of a free, multiracial South Africa realised; and Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal, who in the sixties selflessly championed the early modernization of the Kingdom.
When I interview job candidates, I like to ask, “Tell me your life story. Explain how one experience led you to the next and what it all means.’ I am often surprised by the number of candidates who are unable to explain how the various things they have done fit together; sometimes they are unwillingly to acknowledge mistakes or to take responsibility for their choices.
By contrast, true leaders welcome having their decisions scrutinised and tested. They understand that a failure of decision is not necessarily a failure of character, and that every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow. This understanding, too, is an aspect of the authenticity that is a hallmark of the leader.
Authenticity is closely intertwined with integrity and ethics. People who are authentic are unafraid to reveal their true selves – and this can be the case only when they feel sure that they have done what is right according to their best lights, rather than fudging the truth, cutting moral corners or taking advantage of ambiguity to benefit themselves at the expense of others. We often describe people of integrity by saying ‘They have nothing to hide’. And the expression highlights the transparency that goes with integrity and depends upon it.
Until our next blog where I will speak on ‘nurturing’, please be assured that I welcome your comments and discussions.
The Unknown Leader – Best Leadership Training & Development Books in UAE, Saudi Arabia. Find more information to http://www.theunknownleader.com
Author, The Unknown Leader