A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. – Lao Tzu
This ancient Chinese proverb holds much importance in contemporary times. Each one of us has an inherent leader in us, but there are also others who we follow in our daily lives: a child follows the mother, a student his teacher, and an employee his ‘boss’.
All relationships are based on trust, which we all agree is the most important asset that any organization, brand, leader, or individual can have. We have trust in abundance, however the very nature of trust is “fragile”.
Authentic Leaders, lead others by being true to their self and building legitimacy through honest relationships with others.
In the 21st century, the entire nature of business leadership must change because people in organizations have changed.
Today’s generation is far more self-aware and sharp. People today need a leader who is not just logical, but more. They will no longer follow leaders because of a hierarchy. People no longer accept commanding, controlling and politically motivated leaders, who put their own interests ahead of their organizations.
Since many employees are now a step ahead of their bosses, it has become essential to have self-motivated and honest leaders to encourage and lead.
Leaders who generate trust and empower their people achieve sustained high performance within organizations. This is the main reason behind the massive shift in leadership development programs, from competency to focusing on leaders’ inner qualities.
When I speak on this topic, I call the following four, the “Pillars of Authentic Leadership”:
- Listen intently: When you learn to see things as others see them and feel the way they do, you diminish the invisible wall and establish an unsaid faith in your team.
- Discuss sportingly: It can do you a world of good to know what people think of you and your ideas/visions. Encourage your subordinates to contribute their unique take and let the team discuss the pros and cons whole heartedly. Since this will become the basis of your mission and vision to execute it, the team will offer its “full support”
- Serve selflessly: Your team will learn from you and they will deliver better, more productive results with the knowledge that you serve your team and organization, not your personal interests. With strong and honest communication, an unforeseen strength can be inculcated in the team, without insecurity or the fear of loss and demotion.
- Compliment sincerely: A person can contribute to the team in not just the results they deliver, but also their loyalty, determination, team work, wit, ingenuity and confidence. Appreciate the smaller contributions to build a large team of strong, faithful members.
Becoming an authentic leader is not easy. It takes a great deal of self-reflection and courage to do the right thing. However, leadership is a two way dialogue between the leader and the team members.
Engaged team members can help to shape great leaders. Authentic leaders appreciate and accept the support of their team, while maintaining their position in the integral structure of the team.