The Talisman of Leadership: Authenticity

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Offline Sultan Mahmud Sujon

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The Talisman of Leadership: Authenticity
« on: April 13, 2017, 06:55:05 AM »
I have come to realize that, for me at least, the quest for 'authenticity' is really a new spin on an age-old quest to find meaning and do the right thing. It's a journey not a destination; a process not an answer.
– Hugh Mason
Some time ago, I heard a young woman say, "I am enough." I was struck and intrigued by the expression, and so I set out to research it. It originated with Carl Rogers, the psychotherapist, who was asked how he did what he did so successfully. His response was, "Before a session with a client, I let myself know that 'I am enough.' Not perfect – because perfect wouldn't be enough. But I am human, and there is nothing that this client can say or do or feel that I cannot feel in myself. I can be with them. I am enough."

This echoes the serenity of mind, the calm spirit that characterizes a 'Mensch' – in other words, a person of integrity, a quality that is defined in the dictionary as 'a state of being complete or undivided.' Leaders such as these are the epitome of authenticity. They come from the standpoint of being enough, of seeing themselves as complete human beings, providing a unique contribution to the world by giving their own brand of wisdom, ingenuity, perceptiveness, fairness, and fierce loyalty to their organizations, and to those they lead.

Authentic leaders are also promise-keepers. This applies to even the smallest of promises. Years ago, I met the CEO of a Fortune 500 organization. I noticed something about him. He carried with him a small, black notebook into which he noted down any promise he made. No matter how junior the person was to whom he spoke, he made the same effort to note down his promises to that person, so that he could follow through. We can rely on the word of such a person.

Transparent communication is a by-product of authentic leaders' lucid thinking and uncompromising ethic. Such leaders say a great deal with a few words, and there is no communication gap between their internal vision of the world and its outward expression. There is directness in their language. This transparency in communication is the holy grail of leadership, especially today – with a reported four million blogs in the blogosphere – where a lack of transparency can be particularly detrimental to an organization.

Conformity smoothes our day's journey at work. Blind conformity, however, has its downsides. It saps creativity, for one. It removes all sense of individuality. If you are a leader who demands conformity, I encourage you to think how this might erode your constituents' authenticity as they are pressured to conform. I once worked for a leader in a technology company, who adopted, as part of the company values, the notion of 'intelligent disobedience.' The concept comes from Seeing Eye dogs. While dogs must learn to obey the commands of the blind person, they must also know when they need to disobey commands that can put the owner in harm's way, such as when a car is approaching. Intelligent disobedience is not about being difficult and disobeying for disobedience sake. Rather, it is about being given the authority to use your judgment – for example, when a decision no longer applies, or when a rule interferes with the wellbeing of the customer.