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Monday, January 22, 2007

Authentic leadership judge for yourself have a look in the Mirror

Authentic Leadership: Looking in the Mirror

Authenticity, according to Webster'sDictionary, is being genuine. Genuine,suggests Webster's, means not being a hypocrite. And to be a hypocrite is "to feign qualities or beliefs that one does not actually possess or hold, especially a pretense of piety or moral superiority."
So to be truly genuine - or authentic -a leader requires a few things: To ensure that one's corporate actions and rhetoric are aligned; to ensure that such actions are meaningful (as opposed to superficial,headline-grabbing actions that don't take root beyond the organization's need for disingenuous publicity); and to ensure that one's public persona and private core are not at odds.
Even without the great degree of personal discernment required for Plato's examined life, it can be challenging for many leaders to ensure that their own and the organization's rhetoric is borne out in the actions taken individually and collectively. We don't have to dig too deeply to find an ample supply of corporate hypocrisy that results from a disconnect between good intention (or perhaps good spin) and follow-through.
No, in most cases it's not a matter of evil people doing evil things for purposes of unmitigated self-gratification. It's just that it's pretty easy to say things, to read a speech about vision and ideals, to inaugurate a new initiative with a lofty tag line.It's not so easy to get an organization tha thas assumed a life of its own, driven more and more by the insatiable appetite of shareholder value, to actually be that ideal. The proof is in the follow-through.That's where the level of leadership commitment and influence becomes evident.
And small businesses aren't immune. I know from my own experience as a business founder that it's easy to believe in a course of action, only to find that it's not the best course of action a week later. To get excited about a new idea, only to find out the idea's time has not yet come, or worse, it's not realistic in practice.Without straight forward communication,clearly articulated expectations, and an authentic, stable core vision, the sort of strategic vacilation common to both entrepreneurial companies and large corporations can force a disconnect between that which is spoken and that which is done.
We've all heard the grapevine stories about organizations that tout one thing publically while doing quite another behind closed doors. Examples would include the communication firm that doesn't practice skillful communication; or the large corporation that's recognized for its great work environment while it conducts round after round of layoffs and is permeated by areal culture of enforced workaholism. Or the large company that, in a competitive job market, perpetuates the myth that it's"flat" by calling its leaders "coaches" or its employees "associates" or "team members." Is it any wonder that we live in a time in which corporate spin and employee cynicism have skyrocketed?
In any organization, an authentic leader gets ahead of the often unavoidable, sometimes unpleasant business realities, and communicates both realities and possibilities in a context of uncompromising honesty. He or she withstands the temptation to adopt popular buzzwords if he knows there's inadequate commitment to long-term support required for an initiative or ideal to take root and survive.She doesn't pretend the company has no hierarchy when both its size and its production requirements make hierarchy of some sort a necessity.
Authentic leadership may indeed be more possible in privately owned companies, given the tremendous pressure on leaders in public companies to squeeze every possible penny of profit for shareholders, regardless of the deleterious effect on the organization's culture, employees, or customers. Are the chief executives of large, public companies - like most politicians - morelike actors than true leaders?

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