Authentic leadership

Have you ever taken an assignment that you thought would be easier than it turned out? But you didn’t bow out because you knew it would be a good stretch?

I recently accepted an invitation to speak at a women’s event on the topic of “Leadership Presence: Your Authentic Self.” This is not a topic on which I usually speak, although I include elements of leadership, presence and authenticity in various presentations. So I thought, “no problem.”

It caused me to really examine the definition of authenticity and my perspective on it. Is there a sharp line between authentic and fake? Can you be partially authentic? Can you tell when someone else is being inauthentic? What if they are good at faking authenticity?

Is being authentic 100% of the time one’s goal? What if it isn’t safe to be authentic? Are there instances where you are more authentic than others? Are you being fake when you aren’t being 100% authentic all the time?

Soon I learned I had more questions than answers. I wrestled with some of these questions for myself. I devised an authenticity continuum, feeling that few people are 100% authentic at all times. So one could use authenticity as a strategic tool, determining how much of one’s true self to disclose depending on the circumstance.

So is not being fully authentic all the time then being duplicitous or fake? Is there a downside to being 100% oneself — with no filters?

Leadership presence was a little easier, although as I gathered my points I could see there were notable exceptions. If I pointed to powerful woman who presented themselves with current style, like Lesley Stahl, Diane Sawyer, or Oprah Winfrey, I could counter with examples of powerful women who didn’t, like Madeleine Albright.

If I said that leadership presence incorporated strong posture and body language, I could also come up with examples of leaders who didn’t exude powerful posture.

So what to do? I have to be authentic myself and admit I don’t have all the answers, and for every key point, I could counter with examples of women who didn’t incorporate that behavior.

What are your thoughts about authentic leadership?


1 thought on “Authentic leadership”

  1. Are you aware of the Authentic Leadership in Action Institute (ALIA), based in Halifax?
    ALIA runs annual institute gatherings in Canada and Europe, and recently in the US. There’s a lot of useful information on the website. If you need to pursue the question of authenticity further come to the institute in Nova Scotia this June.

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