Discovering Your Authentic Leadership in Leadership Excellence Essentials_March 2015 Issue
By Prof. Sattar Bawany
How can you become and remain an authentic leader?
Discovering Your Authentic Leadership
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain
It continues to surprise us at CEE Global through our Executive
Coaching engagements how many leaders attempt to be one way at
work, while their “true” personality emerges outside of work. It is
surprising when these same leaders seem shocked or confused when
their employees don’t trust them, don’t like them, and can’t really
wait to work elsewhere.
Authenticity has been explored throughout history, from Greek
philosophers to the work of Shakespeare (“To thy own self be true.” –
Polonius, Hamlet). Authentic leadership has been explored sporadically
as part of modern management science, but found its highest levels
of acceptance since Bill George’s 2003 book, Authentic Leadership.
Demystifying Authentic Leadership
But what is authentic leadership? How can you become and remain
an authentic leader? Are organizations choosing and developing the right
people to lead?
Authentic leaders, according to Bill George, genuinely desire to serve
others through their leadership. They are interested in empowering the
people they lead to make a difference; more than they are interested in
power, money or prestige for themselves. They are guided equally by
the heart and the mind – practicing heart-based guidance grounded
in passion and compassion, as well as thoughtful leadership grounded
in the qualities of the mind. They lead with purpose, meaning and
values. And their people relationships are extremely strong. People
follow them because they are consistent, reliable and strong. When
they are pushed to go beyond their beliefs and values, they will not
compromise. They are dedicated to personal growth and learning
because they believe that becoming a leader takes a lifetime.
Authentic leadership encourages individuals to investigate their
pasts, identify key defining moments in their lives that helped shape
who they are and use these as springboards to identify their individual,
authentic leadership purposes. In fact, leadership is very personal and
different for everyone.
Authentic leaders are Level 5 leaders who demonstrate ontologi-
cal humility and are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and
their emotions. They also show their real selves to their followers. They
do not act one way in private and another in public; they don’t hide
their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. They also
realize that being self-actualized is an endless journey, never complete.
Authentic leaders are mission driven and focused on results. They
are able to put the interest of their people the centre of their business
strategy. Highly engaged and motivated employees make the differ-
ence between a truly successful organization and a mediocre entity
are the driver of customer engagement. Authentic leaders are mission
driven and focused on results. They are able to put the mission and
the goals of the organization ahead of their own self-interest. They do
the job in pursuit of results, not for their own power, money or ego.
Authentic leaders lead with their heart, not just their minds.
They are not afraid to show their emotions, their vulnerability and to
connect with their employees. This does not mean authentic leaders
are “soft.” They leverage on Socialised Power and not Personalised
Power. They are able to demonstrate Social Intelligence competen-
cies. When the situation warrants it, they communicate in a highly
impactful and direct manner which is critical to successful outcomes,
but it’s done with empathy; directness without empathy is cruel.
Authentic Leader’s Purpose and Values
The essence of leadership is to create future that is better than the
present, PURPOSE and VALUES are the guides that help you in
pursuing it. Your PURPOSE and VALUES define your leadership
identity, and give you they energy you need to stay the course.
The only way to define your purpose and values is to ask yourself
some tough questions and answer them honestly. Answers may not
come to you right away, so you have to keep asking the questions
until you find the answers that are right for you.
Thus, firstly you need to have clarity of personal purpose. After that,
you have to imagine a better future. Once a clear picture of desired
future takes place in mind, determine the values that will guide you
while pursuing the better future. Chances are you will clear about the
values and principles you would use to resolve difficult dilemmas. LE
Prof Sattar Bawany is the CEO & C-Suite Master Executive Coach of Centre
for Executive Education (CEE Global). CEE offers human capital management
solutions for addressing challenges posed by a multigenerational workforce in-
cluding talent management and executive development programs (executive
coaching and leadership development) that help leaders develop the skills and
knowledge to embrace change and catalyze success in today’s workplace.
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