Authentic Leadership

Danie du Preez

 How authentic are we in our leadership? (1)

One of the most important characteristics of a great leader is that of authenticity. What people are longing for in any organisation is to experience authentic leadership. As we know, the Lord created each one of us as a unique person and our longing for what is real and authentic is part of who we are. God also gave us the ability to quickly sense what is false, fake and unreal.

Here are a few possible meanings of the word “authentic”:

Real or genuine; worthy of trust, reliance or belief; not copied or false; true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.

The past few weeks I have been reading the book of Bill George with the title “Authentic Leadership – rediscovering the secrets of creating lasting value”. The content truly resonates with my heart and mind.

 A concise summary of authentic leadership

 From the outset Bill gives a summary of what he believes authentic leaders are:

  • people of the highest integrity
  • committed to building enduring organisations
  • those who have a deep sense of purpose
  • who are true to their core values
  • have courage to meet the needs of all stakeholders
  • who recognize the importance of their service to society

 Authentic leaders serve the whole person

In the driven society we live today with its fast pace, interconnectedness and hunger for success, many of us spent more time of our lives in the workplace. We quickly realise that somehow we need to find a balance between work and our personal lives. In his foreword to Bill George’s book, Warren Bennis makes the following observation: “We long for work that seems meaningful enough to justify missing out on great chunks of our children’s lives” - and for that matter, our spouses lives as well.

Authentic leaders primarily deal with the greatest asset of their organisations, and that is the precious people they lead. It is believed that Henry Ford once said: "Why is it that I always get the whole person, when what I really want is a pair of hands?" Not the best of his quotes though.

Authentic leaders do not see their people as pairs of hands to accomplish tasks or deliver on targets and projects. No, they realise that they are called to deal with the whole person, and they embrace it!

John Maxwell shares that, for people to follow authentic leaders, they will normally ask three basic, but very important questions:

  • Do you care for me?
  • Can you help me?
  • Can I trust you?

The important principles are:

As authentic leaders, we need to create an environment for our people that will bring a true sense of fulfilment, purpose, belonging and joy where they affirm and experience a resounding "yes" to the above three questions.

In addition, we need to be flexible enough in the work place to allow our people to find the balance between their work and their personal lives.

For this to happen authentic leaders effectively communicate and share a deep sense of purpose with their followers. They understand what it means to serve others through their leadership. Bill George puts it like this: “They are more interested in empowering the people they lead to make a difference, than they are in power, money or prestige for themselves.”

Danie du Preez – June 2016