Leadership scholars have conducted more than 1,000 studies in an attempt to determine the definitive styles, characteristics or personality traits of great leaders. None of these studies has produced a clear profile of the ideal leader.So What?
All leaders have to deliver bottom line results. Superior results over a sustained period of time is the ultimate mark of a successful leader. More and more evidence points to successful leaders are those that are Self-Aware Authentic Leaders.Comprehensive data study – the largest in depth study of leadership development ever undertaken.
- 125 Leaders were asked: “How can people become and remain authentic leaders.”
- Ages ranged from 23 to 93
- At least 15% from each decade
- Chosen based on their reputation for authenticity and effectiveness
- Half are CEOs / other half a range of profit and nonprofit leaders, mid-career leaders and young leaders just starting on their journey
- Generated 30,000 pages of transcripts summary
- These leaders had no universal characteristics, traits, skills, or styles that led to their success.
- Rather their Leadership emerged from their life stories.
- Consciously and subconsciously they were constantly testing themselves through real-world experiences and reframing their life stories to understand who they are at their core.
- In doing so, they discovered the purpose of their leadership.
- And discovered that being authentic made them more effective.
First and most important, these leaders framed their life stories in ways that allow them to see themselves not as passive observers of their lives, but rather as individuals who can develop self-awareness from their experiences. They acted on that awareness by practicing their values and principles, sometimes at substantial risk to themselves. They were careful to balance their motivations so they were driven by these inner values as much as by a desire for external rewards and recognition.
2. Learning from your life story
The journey to authentic leadership begins with understanding the story of your life. Your life story provides the context for your experiences, and through it you find the inspiration to make an impact in the world. It is your personal narrative that matters, not the mere facts of your life.
While the life stories of authentic leaders covers the full spectrum of experiences – including the positive impact of parents, athletic coaches, teachers and mentors– many leaders reported that their motivation came from a difficult experience in their lives. Rather than seeing themselves as victims, authentic leaders used these formative experiences to give meaning to their lives.
3. Knowing Your Authentic Self
When the 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop, their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness. Yet many leaders, especially those early in their careers, are trying so hard to establish themselves in the world that they leave little time for self-exploration. They strive to achieve success in tangible ways that are recognized in the external world – money, fame, power, status, or a rising stock price. Often their drive enables them to be professionally successful for a while, but they are unable to sustain that success.
As many leaders age, they realize they are holding back from being the person they want to be. Knowing their authentic selves requires the courage and honesty to open up and examine their experiences. As they do so, leaders become more willing to be vulnerable. No one can be authentic by trying to imitate someone else. People trust you when you are genuine and authentic, not a replica of someone else.
4. Practicing Your Values and Principles
The values that form the basis for authentic leadership are derived from your beliefs and convictions. And you will not know what your true values are until they are tested under pressure. It is relatively easy to list your values and to live by them when things are going well. When your success, your career, or even your life hangs in the balance, you learn what is most important, what you are prepared to sacrifice, and what trade-offs you are willing to make. Leadership principles are values translated into action.
ACTION: Developing Self-Awareness: Ask yourself these questions and accelerate your journey to Authentic Leadership.
- What are the most significant people, events and experiences that have had the greatest impact on you?
- How do you narrate this as part of your life story?
- What tools do you use to become more self-aware?
- What are your most deeply held values?
Onward and Upward,