Authentic Leadership: Self-Discovery, Self-Regulation…and Growth

“To be authentic is literally to be your own author, to discover your own native energies and desires, and then to find your own way of acting on them.”

Warren G. Bennis

Authentic leadership is personal experience that requires self-awareness, introspection, and a genuine desire to improve and lead with integrity.

It’s not just about directing or leading; it’s about being, thinking, and doing in a manner that reflects your true self.

Let’s explore the tenets of authentic leadership.

1. Be, Think & Do – the key facets of authentic alignment

BE: Leadership starts from within. To be an authentic leader, you must know who you are – your values, beliefs, and principles. Shakespeare’s famous line, “To be or not to be,” underscores the existential nature of our existence, capturing the need for leaders to ask and answer the fundamental question, “Who am I?”

THINK: Before you act, you think. Your chosen thoughts mold your actions. Therefore, it’s crucial to regularly check-in and ask yourself, “How do I feel when I think what I’m thinking?” Your thoughts should resonate with your authentic self.

DO: Actions speak louder than words. Are you doing things that inspire you? Or do your actions trouble you? Reflect on the motivations behind your actions to ensure they align with your authentic self.

2. Gauge Your Moral Compass

Your moral compass is your internalized set of values and principles that guide your ability to distinguish right from wrong.

This internal sense brings guardrails for your authentic decisions and actions based on your ethical beliefs and moral values. Your moral compass has been influenced by factors such as upbringing, culture, religious beliefs, experiences, and personal reflections, a moral compass helps individuals navigate ethical dilemmas and make choices that align with their core beliefs.

Your actions and thoughts, whether you find them inspiring or troubling, serve as indicators of your moral compass. Reflect on your thoughts and actions. Are they pointing towards what feels right, or are they veering off course? Authentic leaders are constantly attuned to their moral direction.

3. Personal Philosophy and Biases

Leader’s Personal Philosophy: Every leader should have a personal philosophy—a set of beliefs and principles that guide their decisions and actions. Work to create clear and simple messages that convey your personal philosophy. Communicate your personal philosophy…and tell illustrative stories.

Leader’s Biases: Everyone has biases. Recognize yours and understand their impact on your decisions. Be open-minded, with your ego guided by your moral compass. Seek counsel from those who challenge your perspective, listen well, and self-adjust as required to ensure your decision-making is well rounded.

4. Strengths, Weaknesses, and Collaboration

While it’s essential to hone your strengths, acknowledging your weaknesses is equally important. Surround yourself with individuals who possess talents and strengths that cover those areas where you are lacking talents and strengths. Collaborative efforts are essential to success and gaining stature as an effective leader.

5. The Art of Presence

Being ‘present’ as a leader goes far beyond physical attendance. It’s a potent illustration of one’s leadership power that has the capability to shape and influence the behavior of those around them.

Truly being present means fully immersing oneself in the moment, actively listening with genuine interest, and providing undivided attention to those you lead. When leaders manifest this level of engagement, they harness a deeper aspect of power—one that encourages trust, fosters open communication, and cultivates an environment where others feel valued and heard. Moreover, this aspect of leadership power can deeply influence others’ actions, reactions, and motivations.

By practicing mindfulness techniques, leaders not only enhance their own presence but also amplify their impact and the positive influence they exert within their teams and organizations.

6. Combatting Fear and Anxiety

Every leader faces moments of fear and anxiety. Recognize when these emotions creep in and understand their roots. It’s essential to tackle them head-on because anxiety disrupts our ability to maintain focus.

A clear, concentrated mind is paramount for constructive thought and action.

Again, mindfulness techniques are important. Moments of mindfulness not only ground a leader during stressful times but also facilitate a return to focus. By practicing mindfulness, leaders can control their emotions more effectively, ensuring that their judgment and decision-making remain sharp and unhindered.

7. Daily Self-Reflection

Dedicate time every day to self-reflection. Learn something new about yourself and write it down. Over time, you’ll have a chronicle of personal growth and insights.

8. Ongoing Self-Regulation

Awareness of your thought processes, actions, and conversations is crucial. Know when to adjust, when to push forward, and when to pause. Ongoing planned efforts for self-regulation ensure you remain aligned with your authentic self.

9. Excel in Authenticity

Determine where you naturally excel and amplify those areas. When you’re authentic, your best shines through, inspiring those around you.

Authentic leadership is about continuously aligning your being, thinking, and doing with your true self, ensuring that every step you take as a leader is genuine and true. Embrace this and you’ll find not only personal fulfillment but also the unwavering respect and trust of those you lead.

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