A few days ago I gave a 2-hour workshop on Authentic Leadership to 200 senior women leaders at the Uniting Churches National Women’s Conference. It was quite an incredible experience…
Knowing that theological leaders are deeply philosophical and reflective, I knew I needed to dig deeper into this very deep topic (Harvard’s #1 subscribed leadership topic). This challenged me to look at authentic leadership from different perspectives: which I’d love to share with you…
Where I got to was essentially that Authentic Leadership is really challenging because it is paradoxical – and far from simple.
In its most simplistic form, we all know intuitively that to be seen to be authentic (and to ‘be’ authentic inside) what we say, do, think and feel need to be aligned. That is the recipe for happy ‘free range’ humans. It’s the essential recipe for others to trust that what they see is what they'll get.
However we don’t operate, as leaders, on islands. We don’t operate independently to our environment (the bigger system). We operate within a system, wishing to affect this system, to move this system closer towards what we want to achieve (our vision and the outcomes we want).
We need to be conscious of, and deeply appreciate, this outside (system) and the forces within this system that tug and test our authenticity. Only then can we operate as consciously as possible, to navigate a path that moves us closer to what we want to bring into being, and does so in a way that is aligned with who we are, what we believe in and what we stand for. We must deeply respect the outside system (in all its complexity), in order to navigate to carefully, balancing our internal and external systems – as we move towards our vision.
Perhaps the reason so much has been written about "Authentic Leadership" and why leaders at all levels wrestle with it (it so often features as the largest growth opportunity in 360 feedback) – is that achieving this balance isn’t’ easy. It requires deep self-understanding and valuing of self - together with deep understanding and respect of the greater system (it’s complex dynamics and forces). On top of this it requires deep courage to honour ourselves and others in the decisions we make as we seek to bring into being what we seek to achieve (move closer to our vision).