Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What is an Authentic Leader?

David Irvine, author of The Authentic Leader, and I enjoyed a great conversation on my Conversations with Charmaine Radio Show on this very topic. David states that leadership is not a position, it’s a decision. His perspective really resonated with me. With many of the teams I work with as a speaker, consultant or facilitator, one of the discussions that comes up is about demonstrating leadership, even if you are not a leader by title.
The authentic leader, according to David, is about inspiring and engaging people to work toward a compelling vision – by seeing the gifts and potential of others more clearly than they see it in themselves and being able to communicate it in their own unique way. He also states that leadership is more about presence and not the position. Authentic leaders, states Irvine, aligns the interests, values, and goals of the organization with the interests, values, and goals of the employee.
We also talked extensively about the importance of trust in an organization, and changing the culture to be more trusting and trustworthy. This can be a significant challenge for even the high performing and healthy teams. One of the teams I worked with had a very moving conversation about trust, the importance of being vulnerable and taking risks. As the team talked about the discomfort with vulnerability, they discovered that this was blocking their ability to communicate courageously (having the conversations that matter most and are mostly avoided). This resulted in the team working pretty well together, but, in times of uncertainty, change and pressure, the sensitive issues were not discussed. In the teams’ desire “not to rock the boat” the boat ended up getting rocked because the little issues became big issues.  The team discovered that little things grow bigger and while discomfort and vulnerability can be a challenge, it is much more uncomfortable to deal with the issue when it has become a crisis.
Some of the ideas the group brainstormed together to build and sustain trust in the organization were:
  •        To communicate regularly, openly and intentionally
  •        To refrain from gossip
  •        To acknowledge one another, individual and team accomplishments
  •        To raise issues earlier on
  •        To set time aside on each weekly staff meeting for open dialogue
  •        Regular team building opportunities
  •       Exposure to one another’s roles

They also developed a charter, which is something I always enjoy facilitating. Their team charter set forth agreements about how the team would work together, communicate together, and succeed together. The team established “norms” and expectations around communication, conflict resolution, staff meeting structure, sharing of knowledge. Their charter has become an important document in their team, has provided them with “permission” to hold one another accountable, and most importantly, it was what they used to design their team. I have lots of faith that this team will be highly successful, their investment in team will impact them positively now and in time to come.
And in the words of David Irvine, this team really demonstrated leadership not by position, but by a decision and their presence in the team.
You can listen to the interview with David Irvine and Seanna Collins here.
To find out more about David’s book Authentic Leadership, click here: