Updated: Apr 24, 2022
Our world is going through deep transformations and the call to action for leaders to support mindfully those transformations is imminent.
However, many leaders of our century have not yet unleashed their potential because they do not recognize themselves in traditional leadership styles and often struggle between 2 roles: “Being authentic, like I do in my personal life” and “Behaving as a leader, like I am requested to do within my organization.”
Does this duality resonate in you? If yes, this article might help you clarify some points regarding your personal leadership style.
1. What does “being a leader” mean?
Internal conflicts about leadership behaviour are mainly due to inherited beliefs coming from our ancestors and/or our collective unconscious of “what being a leader means” and “what people expect from a leader.”
What does “leadership” mean for you ?
For many people, leadership is associated to authority, directive decision-making style, masculinity, and command. The article “Leader gender stereotypes and transformational leadership: Does leader sex make the difference?” written by Sarah E. Saint-Michel outlines “researchers stress that the stereotype of the “successful leader” is still defined in masculine terms (Koenig, Eagly, Mitchell & Ristikari, 2011)—highlighted by the aphorism “Think male – Think leader” (Schein, 1973, 1975).”
As for the workplace, the vague frontier between jobs requiring leadership skills and those requiring managerial skills lead to a common misconception of management roles and the demotivation of both managers and leaders who can't express their potential within their organizations.
Who are the leaders within your organization ? Are they at the right place to support others unleash their potential and serve collectively the organization’s purpose ?
Abraham Zaleznik, american professor in organizational behavior, published in 1977 in Harvard Business Review, the article “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different ?” in which he compares leaders and managers. The image below, inspired from this research, emphacizes the main difference between managers and leaders, which mainly lies in the conceptions they hold.
2. What does the world need today?
Our world is changing quickly and deeply. We do need leaders to support those changes and empower others to build together the world of tomorrow. However, people and in particular young generations no longer believe in models driven by egos, profits only and opacity. They learnt the lessons from older generations and want now to build a world that reconciliates purpose and money and where human consciousness and authenticity are drivers.
The article “9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work" published by Shawn Achor, Andrew Reece, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, and Alexi Robichaux in Harvard Business Review, emphacizes the results of a survey conducted about purpose in workplace. “The trillion dollar question, then, was just how much is meaning worth to the individual employee? If you could find a job that offered you consistent meaning, how much of your current salary would you be willing to forego to do it? We asked this of our 2,000+ respondents. On average, our pool of American workers said they’d be willing to forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful. The magnitude of this number supports one of the findings from Shawn’s recent study on the Conference for Women. In a survey of attendees, he found that nearly 80% of the respondents would rather have a boss who cared about them finding meaning and success in work than receive a 20% pay increase.”
People are looking for more personal fulflillement and workplace plays a key role here. This trend, that goes along with human consciousness development, leads organizations to rethink their models and how to position themselves to serve their employees’ purpose along with their own mission. To support those reflections and build new generation organizational models that fit humans’ and planet’s needs, the world needs great leaders - who lead with their hearts and their heads. Authentic leaders are great leaders, and they can make the difference. As Blaise Pascal said “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of... We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart."
The world needs human leaders driven by individual and collective purpose, who build trustful relationships, empower others to grow as leaders and serve a higher purpose. Authentic leadership seems to be the emerging style of our century.
Who are the leaders who inspire you ? Why do they inspire you ?
3. What is authentic leadership ?
What are the common traits between Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple and Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady ?
They are authentic leaders.
The idea of authentic leadership has been popularised by Bill Gorge, a professor at Harvard Business School and a member of the Best Leaders selection committee in his book titled Authentic Leadership. For Bill George, we recognize authentic leaders as they usually demonstrate these 5 traits:
1. Pursuing their purpose with passion
2. Practicing solid values
3. Leading with their hearts as well as their heads
4. Establishing connected relationships
5. Demonstrating self-discipline
Luthans and Avolio (2003, p. 243) define authentic leadership as “a process that draws from both positive psychological capacities and a highly developed organizational context, which results in both greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors on the part of leaders and associates, fostering positive self-development.”
Authentic leaders cultivate self-awareness and are committed to become better versions of themselves. They know their life purpose, their strengths and their weaknesses. They have a vision for the future and gather people that are aligned with this vision. They inspire trust and act as servant leaders, empowering others to be authentic and to grow aligned with their passions and inner self. They are not trying to be perfect. They use their emotional intelligence and are vulnerable, as all human beings. Their relationships are built on trust and authenticity.
Authentic leaders lead with their hearts and their heads, empowering others and serving with them collective purpose.
The results of a study led to provide an exploratory examination of the linkage between employees’ perception of the business founder as an authentic leader and the employees’ attitudes and happiness were published in Leadership & Organization Development Journal “Entrepreneurs as authentic leaders: impact on employees’ attitudes”. They provide empirical support for “the positive impact that the entrepreneur-leader’s perceived authenticity may have on their employees’ work-related attitudes and happiness.”
This study showed that “employees who perceived their entrepreneur/leader to be more authentic had correspondingly higher levels of organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and work happiness. Authentic leadership theory asserts that the self-awareness and shared beliefs of leaders and followers play a key role in supporting the sustained veritable performance of an organization (Avolio and Gardner, 2005; Avolio et al., 2004; Avolio and Luthans, 2006).”
Authentic leaders, because they lead with their hearts, inspire and empower others to reconnect to their authenticity and express their potential. Authentic leaders play a key role in the happiness and performance level of their followers and the organizations in which they bring value.
And you, what leader do you want to be?
4. How to become an authentic leader ?
Becoming an authentic leader takes time as it requires going through inner self, doubts and fears to release blocking beliefs that limit the expression of your full potential.
Being surrounded by authentic leaders, as part of your coaches, mentors or models might help you get motivation, inspiration and confidence to reconnect to your authentic leadership.
Here are some tips that might help you in the path of becoming an authentic leader:
1/ Find your Ikigaï (“Reason of being”):
- What do you love?
- What are your talents?
- What can you be paid for?
- What’s your vision of the ideal world and how do you want to contribute to it ?
2/ Define what success means for you:
- What does success mean for you? Personally and professionally?
- How do you measure it?
3/ Know your values:
- What are your 4 critical values that drive your daily life actions?
- How are they reflected in what you do?
4/ Know what leader you are and what leader you want to be:
- What’s your perception of yourself as a leader?
- How do people see you as a leader?
- How do you serve the others?
5/ Know the relationships you want to culative:
- Who do you want to work with as team members, customers and partners?
- What type of relationships do you want to build?
The world needs authentic leaders, today more than ever.
Article written by Dounia ZELLOU.
Do you want to become an authentic leader ? Discover how coaching can help you develop your self-awareness and become the leader you want to be contacting Dounia Zellou.
Dounia Zellou is specialized in Authentic Leadership Development and Organizational Models Reinvention. She is certified as Erickson Solution-Focused Coach (ICF accredited), Ikigaï Coach, ThetaHealing Practicionner, Mindfulness Facilitator and she created "M.I.A" method which combines mental coaching and intuitve dance to align body, mind and soul. She supports her clients developing their authentic leadership using a holistic approach for deep and sustainable results.
“Leader gender stereotypes and transformational leadership: Does leader sex make the difference?”, Sarah E. Saint-Michel, Management 2018/3 (Vol.21), p.944-966
“Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership”, Bruce J. AvolioT, William L. Gardner, The Leadership Quarterly 16 (2005) 315 – 338
“Truly Authentic Leadership”, Bill George, Published on October 30, 2006
“Managers and Leaders: Are They Different ?”, Abraham Zaleznik, Harvard Business Review, January 2004
“The 5-Step Process to Defining Authentic Leadership”, The Leadership Institute/Authenticity, 7 January 2020
“Entrepreneurs as Authentic Leaders: Impact on Employees' Attitudes” Susan M. Jensen, Fred Luthans, April 2006
“9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work”, Shawn Achor, Andrew Reece, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Alexi Robichaux, Harvard Business Review, November 2018
“Authentic Leaders Are Great Leaders — Are You?” By Joanie Connell
Article written by Dounia Zellou. Last publication on June 16 2021.