Tag Archives: Authentic

The WHO of a Leader

At the beginning of each of my Transformations in Leadership workshops, I ask participants to think of a leader that they admire and would like to emulate.  Each person then shares with the group what it is about the chosen leader that makes him or her stand out.  Some of the participants select historical figures, some modern day civic leaders, athletes, musicians or public figures.  Many talk about a current or previous boss they’ve had.  And still others will speak of a teacher, a coach or a parent.  The interesting thing about the ensuing discussion about the impressive qualities of these leaders is that it is almost never about what leaders do or have done, but rather WHO THEY ARE.

Some of the descriptions that repeatedly top the lists include “honest,” “authentic,” “courageous,” “inspiring,” “sees the best in others and believes in them,” “has vision,” “shows and earns trust and respect,” “communicates directly,” “not afraid to make mistakes,” “humble,”  “connects with people, regardless of title or position,” “walks their talk,” “builds a strong team,” “develops others,” “shares credit,” and the list goes on.

I began my career teaching people classes on how to lead – on subjects like how to create and communicate a compelling vision, how to delegate, set goals, provide performance feedback, resolve conflict, etc.  What I have realized over the years is that the extraordinary leaders are not necessarily the ones who have mastered all these techniques.  They are the ones who have the ability to speak to our hearts as well as our minds, and to awaken something in people that lies dormant, waiting to emerge.  They then nurture and focus it into the creation of something that makes the organization (or the world) a better place for everyone.  Great leaders learn to do this by first doing it for themselves.  The rest they pick up along the way.

Leadership strategies, tools and techniques fall flat unless the people who employ them have strong personal foundations.  Extraordinary leaders have learned over the years who they are and they bring the best of themselves to whatever they are doing.  Much of their wisdom has come from making mistakes and recovering from them in a way that allows others to benefit.  They refuse to be something they are not and have the courage to take a stand.  They care deeply about others, but are independent of the good opinion of others, and therefore are free to be themselves.

The best of the leaders, regardless of the role, title, or vocation, bring out the best in people.  Often they see things in others before they are able to see it in themselves.  From this space, their interaction and communication is always with the person one is becoming – the strong, capable, smart, willing, and resilient contributor who then becomes instrumental in translating vision into reality.  The extraordinary leader knows that anything less than this is an illusion.  Great leaders do not make their people great.  They simply help others to see the possibilities and invite them to the table.  They present us with a vision and a choice and create the space within which we can show up and grow.  The rest, of course, is always up to us.

Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010.  All rights reserved.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy Leadership Lit Up, and Igniting a Spark and Fanning the Flames.  Download these and other articles for free at www.DianeBolden.com/articles. While you are there, you can subscribe to receive a new feature article each month.  You will also receive my free report on 10 Traps Leaders Unwittingly Create for Themselves – and How to Avoid Them.

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