Developing Authentic Leadership

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DEVELOPING AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP
BY MARGOT ZIELINSKA, CONSULTANT, KENEXA®
ARTICLE ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN TRAININGZONE

I

n today’s turbulent economic and political climate, it seems that we are becoming dissatisfied

and disillusioned with corporate leaders. A recent global survey by Kenexa® reports that only 38 percent of employees rate their leaders as effective. This is a shocking statistic that paints a bleak picture of leaders. However, it is even more worrying when our research also shows that employee engagement is actually five times higher for those employees who believe their leaders are effective, compared to those who say they follow neutral or ineffective leaders. This loss of faith in contemporary leaders has propelled researchers and practitioners to take a fresh look at the state of leadership theory and development, bringing about a renewed interest in the concept of authentic leadership. In the quest for authentic leaders, Bill George (2003), a former corporate head himself, issued a statement: “Wanted—authentic leaders...we need leaders who lead with purpose, values and integrity; leaders who build enduring organizations, motivate their employees to provide superior customer service and create long-term value for shareholders.” Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones started in 2001 by asking executives a single question, “Why should anyone be led by you?” This simple question without fail silenced rooms of executives, however, it started a fascinating debate and research into authentic leadership. To us, business is personal • www.kenexa.com So what is authentic leadership? Despite the fact that the concept of authenticity can be traced back to ancient Greece where being authentic meant “to thine own self be true,” the theoretical treatment of authenticity in the context of leadership is relatively new and still in development. The first theoretical model was proposed in 2003, by Luthans and Avolio, who defined authentic leadership as “A process that draws from both positive psychological capacities and a highly developed organizational context, which results in both greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors on the part of the leaders and associates, fostering positive development.” It remains to be seen how authentic leadership theory will evolve and how it will relate to existing leadership models, but importantly, the question of authenticity focuses the debate on being a leader as opposed to leadership as doing (Klenke, 2007).

CORE ELEMENTS OF AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP

As different perspectives on authentic leadership are emerging, there are some commonalities between them in terms of their core elements. These have direct implications for leadership development.

Self-Awareness

Authentic leaders are true to themselves and aware of their own values, beliefs, strengths, identity, sense of purpose, emotions, motivations, goals and their impact on others. Selfawareness is a constantly evolving process in which leaders continually become aware of their experiences and the context in which they operate. FOLLOWERS TRUST AUTHENTIC, BELIEVABLE AND HUMANE LEADERS—NOT THEIR CAREFULLY PROTECTED IMAGES. Self-Regulation

Having invested a lot personally, authentic leaders care about what they do and work toward long-term and sustainable results. Authentic leaders also understand the impact they have on others, take responsibility for it and care for people. This is one of the most important and appealing components of authentic leadership and has important implications for development. Organizations need to factor in a sense of ethics, responsibility and care when developing leaders, and again, this is not something that will happen overnight. Bear this in mind when selling, purchasing and designing leadership development interventions and adopt a long-term focus and sustainable solutions, rather than look for short-term symptomatic fixes. RELATIONAL ASPECTS: FOLLOWERS, TEAMS AND...
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