Personal Clarity: The Foundation for Authentic Leadership
“First, you have to understand yourself, because the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself .”
Can you remember a leader whom you trusted? Who was consistent? Who honored their personal values and motivations regardless of the situation? If so, then you were lucky enough to have experienced an authentic leader. Now, can you remember a leader who seemed to be trying to live up to others’ expectations or some idealized image of a leader? That is someone who is wearing a mask and is pretending to be someone they are not. With which leader would you rather associate?
My first 2 blogs on clarity discussed why organizational clarity is so important and where to start to achieve it. Personal clarity is just as important, because it contributes to your leadership and personal satisfaction.
Many models and definitions of authentic leadership exist. Most of them include having clarity about your identify and then aligning your behavior with it. Common elements in most models include:
- Knowing your purpose in life comes from how you understand and create meaning from your own experiences.
- Defining your values and ethics.
- Understanding your strengths and weaknesses.
- Understanding how you balance internal and external motivations.
- Creating positive emotional states.
- Incorporating all of these elements into all aspects of your life so that there is no difference between how you live your business or personal lives.
Clarifying and understanding who you are is a lifelong process. Each new circumstance brings a new challenge and provides information about what is important to you and what is not. Personal clarity requires conscious effort, discipline, and a commitment to self-development and self-management. It helps you cope with your most difficult situations by providing an “internal compass” which provides direction for you to make difficult decisions. Clarity also filters out the unimportant, and it provides a mechanism for managing priorities.
What are the benefits of being an authentic leader?
First, people trust those who are genuine and consistent. Trust is a fundamental element in all meaningful relationships.
In Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, Bill George argues that authentic leadership “builds strong, enduring organizations and benefits all a company’s stakeholders, its customers, employees, and shareholders.”
In addition, other studies have shown that authentic leadership increases employee engagement, develops teams that perform better, helps employees find meaning and connection at work, and builds optimism and other positive emotional states which all contribute to better organizational results.
From a personal standpoint, George also argues that authentic leaders receive rewards that ,”reach far beyond well-earned monetary rewards to the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of customers, providing great opportunities for employees, and generating superior long-term returns for shareholders. At the same time, authentic leaders lead authentic lives and have time to share with their families.”
Are you curious about how you rate as an authentic leader? Try taking an assessment, (i.e. Sage Publishing—free or Mind Garden—an independent publisher of psychological assessments, there is a small fee). Review your results, and then select an area where you would like to improve.
After you have clarity in that area, select another one until you have a clear understanding of who you really are. That’s the easy part. The hard part is aligning your behavior with what you have identified. Share what you have learned with a trusted friend or colleague, and ask them to give you feedback on how consistent your behavior is with your new personal clarity.