Authentic Leadership Might Be the Single Most Important Factor for Agility

by Bruno Collet - February 2021
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For an organization, the cornerstone of adaptability is to develop decentralized and autonomous teams. For such teams to emerge, there has to be (among others) trust and empowerment so that the decision-making is placed as close as possible to the source and to the effect of change.

 

As it happens, the effectiveness of a leader to create, develop and lead such teams is directly related to the values and skills of authentic leadership.

 

« Authentic leadership is way more than just "being yourself". »

Many people hold the oversimplified notion that being an authentic leader is mostly about being yourself, saying what you think and doing what you say. Well, I'm sure you can easily think about leaders who fit this description and yet do not succeed to create trust and honest relationships. Obviously, there is more to it.

 

To better understand authentic leadership behaviors in real life, I suggest you watch this 6-minute video of the story of Glenn Maul.

Story highlights:

  1. Facing a crisis situation, Glenn shows courage when he makes a tough decision that will put himself in a tough spot

  2. Glenn gets to lead a team who has no respect for him at the beginning. Instead of confronting or blaming his team, he understands their point of view, doesn’t judge them, and gains their respect by putting himself on the line for the team’s success

  3. Glenn opens himself to his team, showing vulnerability, which earns him the team’s trust

  4. In the end, Glenn, the team, and the company are better of.

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In this story we discover four key skills of an authentic leader, and their associated behaviors.

 

  • Self-awareness

  • Empathy

  • Courage, including the courage to show vulnerability

  • Selflessness (which is more a value than a skill)

 

Why is authentic leadership so important for Agility?

Some leadership styles are more supportive to agility than others. For example, servant-leadership, transformational leadership and transversal management come to mind. Authentic leaderships skills and value, such as salf-awareness and managerial courage, act as a foundation for these more elaborate styles of leadership. In other words, you simply can't become a servant- or transformational leader without becoming first an authentic leader.

 

Can authentic leadership be learned?

It is true that personality plays a role, but the good news is that, essentially, authentic leadership can be learned. As usual, beyond the basic concepts, the best way to learn it is to practice it. Techniques that can help develop authentic leadership include mindfulness, powerful questions and trying management hacks such as the Jester (which I describe here). Challenge yourself by trying new practices!

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