The world today is changing so rapidly that organizations need people with leadership skills on their team. Leadership expert Steve Wood provides readers with ideas they can use to improve their leadership and management skills.
His interpretation of leadership lessons from published sources are designed for the busy leader on the go regardless of experience.
Please subscribe to this blog (in the box on the right) to have Steve's helpful advice delivered to you weekly. This blog is also syndicated on BusinessBlogs.
Get More for Free!
Join Steve's Private Email List and he will personally update you on his latest leading-edge articles, tips and resources. When you subscribe, you will receive 1 or 2 new and informative articles per week in your email.
A few years ago, I had a former student of mine interview me for a publication she was working on. One of her first questions was, “So, who are you, really?” My first thought was “what kind of question is THAT?” But as I began discussing it with her I came to realize it was a brilliant question, and I have always remembered it. This question helps us get to the heart of our “authenticity,” which is the foundation today on which our leadership skills should be built.
Learning this week that Mike Wallace of 60-Minutes fame passed away, I remember an experience I had in graduate school at Northeastern University in the mid-1980s. It was rare then for business schools to teach or discuss leadership or ethics. But I had one professor who said this about authenticity and ethics, “you should always manage your business properly so that Mike Wallace won’t show up on your doorstep.” The President of Coors Brewing Company once said that the four words a CEO should fear most are “Mike Wallace is here.”
If you are too young to remember Mike Wallace, he was really the first news reporter who did surprise interviews of people about what was usually some kind of unethical behavior – we got to see who was authentic and who wasn’t. Check out this short CBS video on his career.
Authentic Leadership. We’ve all heard the term, “be yourself.” At its core that is authenticity. It’s not acting the way others want you to act. Authenticity is when your behavior is consistent with your strengths and values. For example, you don’t have to be a leader just because someone else wants you to. But if you are a leader, be an authentic one.
Authentic leaders are humble and truly want to serve others. They put the needs of their organizations ahead of themselves. Bill George, a Harvard Business School professor and author of True North, talks in this video about when he realized he wasn’t acting as an authentic leader and changed organizations because of it.
George writes that authentic leaders “are more interested in empowering the people they lead to make a difference than they are in power, money, or prestige for themselves.” How do you know when someone is an authentic leader? They have loyal followers. The followers follow because they know where their leader stands and that he/she stands for something they too believe in. And their leader stands on their principles and doesn’t shift with the winds.
Five Qualities of Authentic Leaders. Professor George and his team have interviewed and studied hundreds of authentic leaders and have found they exhibit these five qualities.
Understand their purpose. To understand your purpose you must understand yourself before you lead. What are your values, strengths (talents, knowledge, skills), weaknesses, and what are you passionate about. You should then find the organization where your strengths and values fit in.
Practice solid values. Your behavior is always linked to your values. (See my Blog post: “Using Your Moral Compass” for a description of values.) When George writes about values he often references Max DePree, the former CEO of Herman Miller who wrote Leadership is an Art. You get a sense of DePree’s values when he writes, “The Leader’s first job is to define reality. The last job is to say thank you. In between the leader must be a servant and a debtor.” We should always remember an important value that all authentic leaders have - integrity.
Leading with heart. You care about engaging the hearts of your followers. This starts with understanding what is important to them and trying to create a culture that allows them to contribute, grow, and flourish. Your behaviors would include listening, kindness, and respectfulness.
Establishing close and enduring relationships. You know how to establish meaningful relationships with your followers. It’s a slippery slope, but effective leaders know how to traverse. Employees today want more personal, caring relationships with their leaders – when this happens they will commit more to the mission of the organization and stay longer.
Demonstrating self-discipline. You don’t just work hard; you diligently use your strengths and manage your weaknesses. You don’t take actions that conflict with your values. You keep your followers focused on the mission, values, and goals. You commit to self-improvement and you encourage your followers to do the same.
Whenever I read about authentic leadership, one leader is consistently mentioned as an example – Mother Teresa. Most of us know her as someone who helped the poor in some far off place. But she did more than that. She built an organization of 4,000 missionaries in 100 countries that still exists today 15 years after her death. Her organization’s mission is, “to reach out to the destitute on the streets, offering wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor.”
As you think about your authenticity I encourage you to now ask yourself the question, “Who are you, really?” The answer shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially you.
A Poet’s Advice (e.e. Cummings, 1958)
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel … the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody but myself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients. READ MORE >>
Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.
Prior to joining the company, Steve spent 17 years in the banking industry where he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer.
Strategic Planning - Many organizations have a plan or pieces of a plan, but only a few have a thoughtfully developed strategic plan. Strategic planning is a process that has a beginning and no end! It starts with the formation of a mission and core values statement. The process continues with the development of a vision statement, long-term objectives, regular SWOT analysis, strategies, and short-term objectives. We can help you achieve your Strategic Planning goals.
Organizational Development - An organization is a group of people working together for a common mission. As the organization succeeds, more people (employees, customers, stakeholders) are involved and the organization grows more complex. Culture, structure, and systems evolve to deal with these growing complexities. Leaders at all levels develop. Ask me how we can help you achieve your Organizational Development goals.