The COVID pandemic has accelerated the need for a different type of leadership that is effective when disorder and uncertainty are the norm. This ever-changing environment increases the demand on leaders to be grounded and catered from within, independent of an ambiguous, chaotic environment.
This executive notes the passing of the old model and the demands of the new one:
Previously when going through a huge restructuring I could say to my direct reports “Look I will take care of you and there will be a significant bonus at the end of this which will make things right. Today I don’t have these levers and I now need to step into who I really am and what I stand for and find out what they stand for before we have any chance of being able to make it to the other side. I realize that I now have the lead from the inside out versus depending on the system”
In my daily leadership coaching practice and workshops leaders define themselves no longer as a pre-set model of “management attributes”, rather they do create a description of who they are as authentic leaders based on personal experiences.
Many characteristics which come back are self-awareness , transparency , continuous learning through feedback, vulnerability as a sign of inner strength, they set others up for success and help them find their voice , delivering sustainable results and purpose: serving a larger purpose versus being driven by ego (we orientation versus me orientation).
Once could ask, is there ever been a time we haven’t wanted authentic leaders? I guess the challenge now is that the cost of not being an authentic leader has gone up. Three trends do propel authentic leadership:
- In today’s world we are vulnerable to being seen in every context; i.e. it is impossible to fake it.
- Distributed leadership: the pace and variety of events that we face today means that everyone must operate as a leader
- Increased external uncertainty demands that we increase our internal certainty
So, what are the keys to become an authentic leader?
- Appreciate the events that have shaped who you are
- Identify your personal “Board of Directors”; these few trusted people who will tell you the truth
- Accept that becoming an authentic leader is a lifelong journey
- We can’t be authentic by ourselves, it’s through the interaction with others `
- Purpose is at the center. Most of us don’t know the answer to this most fundamental and critical question: What is the purpose that drives who you are as a leader?
More than ever authentic leaders bring light to these darker times and have a clear north star …as each of us they got journeys full of challenges and also powerful peak moments in life and work. The impact of knowing in their bones what purpose has been driving them and what leads when all else fails is the most important ingredient.