When people talk about leadership, there's a greater focus on the external and how leaders can use their resources to achieve results. Being able to achieve results is important, but defining leadership solely by techniques and producing measurable results ignores some key questions about leadership: What is the essence – or the spirit – of leading? What is the basis of achievements and making connections to other people?
Leadership is More About the Person than the Title They Hold
Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, defines leadership as “the ability to achieve the results required all the while building trust.” To lead is more than what we do or accomplish. Leadership is our unique and authentic expression about who we truly are. Knowing who you want to ‘Be’ as a leader precedes what you want to ‘Do’. That is why leadership is an inside out process. Leadership cannot be reduced to simply applying techniques. Meaningful leadership comes from one’s authentic presence – their true identity and personal integrity. An authentic leader is committed to truly understanding who they are and having the courage to be that person, and then inspire, support and encourage other people to discover and express their own unique, often hidden talents. Authentic leadership is a never-ending work in progress (it’s a process) that requires a continuous, lifelong commitment to acquiring maturity and self-understanding. Leaders must do more than constantly upgrade their skills. The core of great, sustained, life-enhancing leadership is having a connection to one’s authentic self. It depends on a commitment to knowing self.
Five Key Steps to Authenticity
1. Review Your Life Journey
This involves looking back at the significant life events and pivotal people who have influenced you as a leader. To know your past is to understand your present and where you came from as well as who and what had an impact on you.
2. Identify Your Core Values and Beliefs
This step involves identifying your core values and beliefs that guide your choices each day. It means to align your behavior/actions with those values. One of the significant mistakes leaders can make is to disconnect from the values they believe in and act out incongruently with them. The old mantra holds “If you want to drive people crazy be incongruent…say one thing but do another…be congruent!"
3. Find Out What You are Passionate About
Passion makes you feel more engaged. It helps you to generate enthusiasm, enjoyment and inspiration. Passion is the fuel that drives things forward. It gives you the power that you need to achieve an outcome that you care deeply about. Discovering what you are passionate about as a leader allows that energy to be modeled to those you lead.
4. Discover and Share Your Gifts and Talents
Winston Churchill once stated “The purpose of life is to discover our talents but the meaning of life is to then give them away.” Take the time to explore what your unique gifts and talents are and then share them with others.
5. Create a Personal Vision Statement
The greatest power a leader can have is their personal vision, which is communicated through the example of how they live their daily lives. Vision is intensely personal. It is a hard-won outcome of dedicated self-reflection: “What do I care about?”; “What do I stand for?”; “What do I desire most in the world?”; “How have I changed for the better?”; “What is the source of my courage?”; “What legacy am I leaving?”; “What is my higher purpose?” The core of great, sustained, life-enhancing leadership is having a connection to one’s authentic self. It depends on a commitment to knowing self.
Trust the process and enjoy the journey!
About Bob Hornsberger
Bob has over 52 years of experience assisting organizations with change through thoughtful planning, designing, delivering and evaluating learning programs. He has been an instructor at the University of Regina's Centre for Continuing Education for over 25 years and currently teaches courses for the Professional Leadership Certificate. In 2006 after a nearly 36-year career within the public service Bob retired to focus on running his training and consulting business, Whole Person Training and Consulting Services (TCS), which has been operational since 1991. TCS has been providing services to the public and private sectors, NGOs, not for profit sector and small businesses for over 31 years.
Bob is a lifelong learner and a strong believer in people’s ability to find solutions to their own problems.