Leadership is earned through demonstrating authenticity and truthfulness and not through positional power.
At an equine leadership school in the Eastern Cape, Yolanda Sing, the founder of Chloé Consultants works with a team of horses to help people develop authentic leadership skills.
According to research conducted by Harvard Business School research fellow Bill George, ‘authentic leaders’ are constantly growing and learning from their leadership experiences.
By taking on new challenges, he says, they become more effective. Instead of being uncertain or even threatened in new situations, they draw upon their true selves and what they have learned over time and from others, to be good leaders.
“I call it congruency,” says Sing. “When you know who you are and you live by your values and principals, it is easy to know what to do in any situation because there is congruence between who you are, what you say and think, and what you do.”
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Congruency implies emotional intelligence, widely accepted as a key component of effective leadership. When you are in tune with yourself and your emotions, and you take into account situational contexts, you can lead with greater empathy and greater power.
“A leader who is committed to doing the work that is required to be authentic and emotionally intelligent is better able to gauge the needs, wants and expectations of their team of people,” says Sing. “That leads to enhanced decision-making that is in the best interest of all involved.”
The five elements
Sing says there are several components to authentic leadership:
Being aware of your strengths and limitations means you can be your real self, without being afraid of exposing weaknesses or making mistakes.
2. Clarity of purpose
Being clear about your mission and objectives, enables you to put the greater good of the organisation as a whole ahead of personal ego interests.
3. Lack of fear
To be unafraid of vulnerability because you are emotionally intelligent enables a life that is far more stress-free than most. This allows for a greater focus on results.
4. Future focus
Rather than living only in the now, authentic leaders look to the future and have the ability to see the long term. They know that success is based on hard work and commitment.
5. Respect for others
Self-actualisation leads to a respect for other people and a deep understanding, that it is far easier to get people on your side when they feel valued, as opposed to threatened or afraid.
It’s a lifelong journey
The process of becoming an authentic leader takes time. Sing advises spending a few moments every day living in the present, until it becomes a habit. Being present in the moment means giving undivided attention to one thing at a time, so that you are fully engaged.
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“Leaders shape the culture of their organisations,” she adds. “Letting go of controlling behaviour allows you to connect with and influence people more effectively, and enhance your own self-confidence at the same time. That’s because guiding others with empathy earns respect and authority.”