For me, Bill George represents how an Authentic Leader shows up, inspires and influences. His work aligns with what I have found to be powerful and true for my clients over time – knowing and articulating your values, strengths and purpose (or calling) is the essential foundation for Authentic Leadership. Throughout my personal development journey, his emphasis on knowing our stories rings true.
Leaders cannot be adequately described by a generic list of traits or characteristics. In 2003, Bill George’s book, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, challenged a new generation to lead authentically.
Authentic leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently, and lead with their hearts and heads. They establish long-term, meaningful relationships and have the self-discipline to get results. They know who they are.
Authentic leadership requires a deep commitment to developing yourself. As with musicians and athletes, realizing your potential is a lifetime pursuit.
Frame their life stories in ways that allow them to see themselves as proactive individuals who develop self-awareness from their experiences. They know their stories and use them to teach others.
Act on this self-awareness by practicing their values and principles in action.
Are careful to balance their motivations so they’re driven by inner values as well as a desire for external rewards or recognition.
Keep a strong support team around them, ensuring they live integrated, grounded lives.
Framing Your Life Stories
“Leaders are defined by their unique life stories and the way they frame their stories to describe their passions and the purpose of their leadership,” notes George.
The journey to courageous, vulnerable, authentic leadership begins with understanding your life story, which provides a context for your experiences. Your story is powered by experiences that can help you inspire others and influence them to follow your lead.
That said, life stories are not always pretty. While most of us can reframe negative experiences in a positive light, authenticity requires us to face up to both our mistakes and failures. An honest appraisal may prove uncomfortable, but it’s necessary for authentic self-assessment and self-improvement. It also paves the way for authenticity, resilience and adaptability.
Mistakes are inevitable, but learning from them is a choice. Courageous authentic leaders continually examine their crucible moments and move forward, gaining strength along the way.
When the 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Advisory Council were asked to recommend the most important area of leadership development, their answers were nearly unanimous: self-awareness.
Who are the authentic leaders that you know? What makes them feel authentic to you? What do you need to do to become more authentic? I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here or let’s connect on LinkedIn.