Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Authenticity in Leadership

Many people think leadership and marriage are two separate conversations. We see them as intertwined - You're as good a partner as you are a leader, as effective a leader as you are a partner. Here's a little piece on authentic leadership.

There's a lot of talk out there around developing the leadership of a company. What does that mean? There is of course, the need for a leader to be focused. That means he or she knows and understands the company vision as well as their own vision for the company. Focus is also about developing the capacity to stay on track, to drive goals and anticipate challenges.
We think leaders are people who know how to listen. Old idea? Yes. And brand new. We've learned a lot about listening in the past few years. Competency here means that a leader can 'tune in' to whoever is in front of them, can suspend their own assumptions while listening, can ask the speaker if they believe they are heard, and can use their talent to reframe the conversation in a positive proactive way. Listening is more than being respectful of the other. It's active. It's leading.
Leaders are people who have integrity and who know the difference between 'acting like a leader' and being a leader. A good concept here that many are talking about is the 'servant leader.' He or she is one who isn't focused on applause, approval or their own ego. They see the good of the shared mission of the company or organization as more important than than anything they are worried about.
When teaching leadership we use the twin ideas of legitimacy and the orphan. Legitimate leaders are centered, have a clear sense of who they are and what they're doing, are deeply respectful of others and believe in their own choice to lead. "Orphans" used in this context, doubt themselves and therefore ask others to prop them up. Orphans dramatize set backs and often blame others for their challenges. Orphan leaders really do not believe they belong in the position they themselves have volunteered for.
A good consultant will tune in to the real challenges of the leaders who hire them. We don't believe much in 'templates' for consultation, not because many templates aren't good, but because every leadership challenge is unique and therefore there is the need to listen in, articulate the challenges, create a language for reframing what's needed and finally, create a pathway that will grow the company.
Stephen Frueh PhD
805 338 4286

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