Everyone talks about leadership; it seems that every time you log into the internet, there is somebody telling you how to be a better leader. With this great focus on leadership, you would expect leading to be easier today than it was yesterday. Sadly, this is not the case, being a leader is even more difficult today because everyone thinks they know what leaders should do.

This is why today’s leaders often struggle as they experience a disconnect between what they do and who they really are. On one hand, there is popular opinion dictating what you should be and how you should behave as a leader. On the other hand, your inner values constantly remind you of who you should be. This is why, to be effective as a twenty-first century leader, you must resolve these critical issues:

  • Define your authentic self: identify your deep values
  • Accept that boundaries exist between your values and an organization’s goals and direction.
  • Realize that those differences will sometimes result in conflict or discomfort.

If you fail to do this, you may find yourself play-acting inside your leadership role; a situation where the leader merely follows a script that has been pre-written by someone else. Such a leader not only loses sight of the meaning of leadership, they cannot connect with others on a deeper level.

How To Be An authentic Leader

An authentic leader is one whose leadership values align with who they are outside their leadership role. What they do at work is not in conflict with who they are as a person. There are five areas where leaders must demonstrate authenticity:

  • Purpose: Their primary focus is on realizing the purpose for which the organization exists, not the politics of self-advancement.
  • Values: Authentic leaders are consistent in their behaviour because they have clearly-defined values.
  • Connections: They communicate on a level that inspires trust and openness; even if it means allowing themselves to be vulnerable.
  • Accountability: They hold themselves to the same standards that they demand of others.
  • Humanity: They build relationships based on empathy and mutual respect.

When a leader manifests these qualities, they are able to inspire people and bring the best out of them.

How Authentic Leaders Manage Conflict and Discomfort

But just because you are authentic in leadership, it does not mean you will not experience difficulties. There are two common areas where you may feel discomfort due to perceived inconsistencies between your values and what a situation demands.

Due To Disagreement on Methods

Differences in what approach to use in solving problems usually result from gaps in the information available to both sides. Limited insight into a problem, will lead anyone to come up with unsuitable solutions. In such situations, learning what the other person knows and sharing what you know is essential to finding a common ground. What you perceive as an issue of values may in reality be a matter of lack of information or misinformation.

Managing New Situations

Life will always throw up questions you have never thought of; situations will arise that have no precedents. In those times, you will be called on to reexamine your values. Instances like this create doubt, because you have to question your assumptions and that is uncomfortable. When dealing with new situations, you must keep the following in mind; your values only serve as a guideline, you should remain open and agile and be willing to adjust your behavior when necessary.

Finally, every authentic leader must be a learning leader in order to remain authentic. Once that leader stops expanding in their thinking or loses their flexibility, they lose the traits that make them authentic in the first place.

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