You can’t have a strong house without a strong foundation, and for a leader to be successful long-term, they need to have a strong foundation of trust for their team to follow. The idea of the ‘Authentic Leader’ is built around this idea of trust and integrity as being fundamental to long-term success.
Billy Byrne, during the first Advant-Edge session of the year, identified four key areas that can be used to evaluate, and develop, authentic leadership.
Being aware of your strengths and, possibly more importantly, your weaknesses, is vital for seeing where you are as a leader, and how you can develop. The process of reflection can result in tough questions and tough answers.
This self-awareness moves well beyond pure skills and competencies, it also means evaluating those skills that allow you to connect and communicate with colleagues and clients. The impact a leader can have emotionally on their team through their day-to-day actions can be significant, and not necessarily positive.
‘If your boss is walking through the door each morning and you don’t know what mood they will be in’ said Billy ‘you will always be walking an emotional tight-rope. This will impact performance, and also your loyalty and longevity to the organisation’.
Being Mission Driven
A second core area in being a truly authentic leader is being mission driven. In other words, having a clear purpose as a leader that is aligned to the organisation. Without this alignment there will always be a tension between the personal and organisational ambitions and this will manifest itself through the leader’s team; if they don’t see their leader caring about the future, why should they?
‘The organisation shouldn’t be a vehicle for personal ambitions’ said Billy when talking about mission drive. ‘The purpose of a leader should be aligned to the organisation – this really means that there will be times where the leader has to put the organisation ahead of themselves.’
Lead from the Heart
Connecting at an emotional level and not being afraid to show vulnerability (when appropriate) is key to engendering trust from those around a leader. Emotional intelligence is now being seen as a fundamental pillar for any leader, often as much, if not more, than the skills required to carry out a role.
‘You have to do this with skill – and that’s where the emotional intelligence bit comes in – but you have to be in a situation where you’re not afraid to show that vulnerability’ said Billy. ‘When you think about the leaders you associate with integrity, it is the ones that lead from the heart that that will come to your mind first.’
Having a Long-Term View
Time is in short supply. Leaders today can become caught up in the maelstrom of the day-to-day business, putting out fires and tackling the challenges right in front of their eyes, but if they don’t take the time to take the long-term view there can be no real leadership.
If a leader is only concentrating on today, they will miss the challenges of the future.
‘Looking after your team is also taking the long-term view – making sure their ambitions are being met and problems being looked after. It’s not just about what they are producing for you today, but the potential of what they can do in the future’.
The Nature of Leadership
The way we define a leader has changed fundamentally over the last number of decades. Through studying real leaders, real teams and the effects they have on each other in determining business success have moved the needle.
The conversation is no longer about the loudest and the brashest, it is about those leaders that can skilfully connect with those around them at an authentic level.
Billy Byrne is an IMI associate on the High Impact Leadership programme.
He is an executive coach, leadership development specialist and an associate at KinchLyons, Organisational Psychologists. Billy holds masters degrees in organisational behaviour and coaching. He is a chartered fellow of CIPD and Council Member of EMCC. To date he has completed sixteen marathons.
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