Applied Leadership Series
5 Ways Authentic Leadership Transcends the Myth of the Charismatic Leader
Written by Dr. Kate Webster, Founder, Breaking Through Barriers, and Peg Rowe, Managing Partner, Tiara International LLC
In her 2008 presidential campaign, Hilary Clinton shed light on the glass ceiling women face when seeking positions of leadership and advancement at work: “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.” Since then, she shattered the highest glass ceiling when she accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, although constantly battling a label of being non-charismatic.
For most women breaking through that glass ceiling has remained elusive. Look what happened to Sue*, a leader in a major Chicago bank. During her tenure at this bank, she succeeded at being an effective manager. However, she struggled to fit in with her predominantly all-male colleagues, who all displayed extroverted, outgoing leadership traits. Her interactive and collaborative leadership style was often minimized and dismissed. After ten years, she realized this environment wasn’t going to change. Her only option was to leave and find a work culture more aligned with her leadership skills.
Women and others who are not traditionally charismatic believe they aren’t effective leaders simply because they don’t fit the ideal extroverted leadership style favored in corporate America. In Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, she argues that this omnipresent belief in the “myth of the charismatic leader” doesn’t value introverted individuals’ unique strengths and strong listening skills. These more introverted individuals have few options and, like Sue, waste energy trying to fit in.
What if there was a different way—a leadership style that honors an array of leadership approaches and is not fixated at either end of the introverted-extroverted spectrum.
Authentic leadership is such a way.
Bill George, author of Authentic Leadership recently claimed, “Authenticity has become the gold standard for leadership.” Authentic leadership is less about one’s personality style and more about how they show up at work and are fully present in who they are. According to George, authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine, mission driven, lead with heart, demonstrate self-discipline, and focus on the long-term.
How can you be more an authentic leader?
5 Strategic Ways to be an Authentic Leader
1. Know your values and what you stand for. Your values are your principles and characteristics you want to be known for. They are the qualities that you believe are most important to demonstrate and serve as a direction and guide in your life.
2. Know your innate strengths. Your innate strengths are those attributes you’ve never been taught and that come naturally to you. You often receive unsolicited compliments for them and are praised for them in your reviews. It would be difficult to show up at work and not express these attributes.
3. Have clarity about who you are. When you are self-aware, you can show up true to yourself in all situations. Colleagues will consistently know what to expect of you and how you interact in workplace situations.
4. Accept less-than-powerful parts of ourselves. Oftentimes fears and other uncomfortable parts of ourselves run the show. By naming these parts and becoming more aware of them, they lose their power to dominate and control how we show up.
5. Operate from true inspiration. When we tap into our true source of inspiration, we are our most powerful, motivated and authentic selves.
In workplace settings, individuals have internal radars for inauthentic leaders. Colleagues and staff don’t take these types of leaders seriously and, as a result, don’t perform at their highest level. However, when leaders show up authentically, individuals know what to expect on a daily basis and, thereby, consistently produce results. It’s a win-win all around.
*Name of client has been changed to protect their confidentiality
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