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AuthenticI once saw a reporter stop a man on the street and ask him what he thought about apathy and indifference. He responded with, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”

A friend once told me, humorously, that I should be sincere whether or not I meant it. Funny, but not funny. I know people who might have this as an internal script. They tell me one thing and proceed to do another one. It’s almost like they give me an answer to “please” me and do what they were planning to do before.

In my list of Transformational Leadership traits, the transformational leader:

  1. Clearly Articulates Vision And Goals
  2. Defines Things Others Can Do
  3. Builds Leaders Within Teams
  4. Effectively Delegates
  5. Encourages Boldness
  6. Gives Information And Support
  7. Affirms And Celebrates Competence
  8. Respects The Individual
  9. Avoids Micromanaging
  10. Models What They Preach

Attribute #10, even though last, is crucial. The leader is primarily the influencer. It’s critical that the leader model behaviors and functions that will influence others in the system. Leadership is a system and the leader sets the standard.

Not only is it critical the the leader model integrity and ethics, it’s critical to be authentic. All too often, leaders behave in ways not consistent with their inner values and not in line with their personality. Authenticity inspires authenticity.

When planning to go public with Dollar General, Cal Turner, Jr., went to his leadership team and asked them to step in in areas that were not in his skill set. He claimed the vision and asked the team to provide the skills needed to achieve that vision. He was authentic in sharing that he had inherited his job as President and Board Chairman, and didn’t get it because of a unique skill set. His transparency allowed others to fill in the gaps and work together in achieving the vision that Cal had articulated.

After sharing that story with me, Cal told me that he viewed leadership as defining personal gaps and allowing others to fill those gaps. His authentic approach to leadership opened up opportunities for others to engage.

Some leaders would rather pretend that they knew all the answers and could dictate all the actions when, in fact, they don’t and can’t. The response might prove to the leader that he or she is wrong. This is not only a waste of time, it’s damaging to the relationships within the team.

Here’s my short list defining authenticity in leaders. Authentic leaders:

  • Focus on the Vision and Not on Themselves – Allowing the team to focus on outcomes and not on pleasing the leader builds team synergy and collaboration.
  • Share Honestly – Telling the truth and telling the truth always, no matter how bad, builds trust. Leadership is founded in relationship.
  • Communicate – Sharing the vision and specific objectives in writing and checking for understanding creates two-way dialogue. The culture of high performance creates an organizational chart that consists of overlapping circles and not lines with hierarchy.
  • Value People – Considering the individual means knowing them and understanding how they think, and knowing their passions for the common work. Treating people as expendable does not build trust. Leading with trust and care for the individual trumps leading by fear any day and most especially in the long-term.
  • Get Out of the Way – Authenticity is delegating and getting out of the way. This is way different from assigning tasks and forgetting about the tasks until the due date. Delegation is not managed by micromanaging. Delegation is working out the action items collaboratively and then mentoring the person and the process, building relationship and trust.

The authentic leader is the respected leader.

Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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(c) 2016 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.

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