Saturday, July 18, 2009

Authentic Leadership

I spent some time this week delving into the research on the subject of leadership. The focus of two articles so far has been the idea of "authentic leadership". What does the term mean? Much like it sounds, it means a leader who is real about himself, his expectations, and his desire for his group. It also goes a step further, though, at least in this literature, to mean someone who is genuine AND positive - someone interested in the growth of his team members, interested in being open and honest about strengths and weaknesses, and interested in building an environment where everyone feels comfortable to be ethical, work for personal and organizational improvement, and who upholds the importance of accountability.

In short, authentic leadership extends very logically from the area of positive psychology and positive organizational behavior. I could see arguments to the contrary - someone can be genuine and still not be positive. Yes, but those people do not tend to remain leaders. The great point raised at the end of the article was the long-term nature of building an environment of positivity and trust. What can be built over decades can be destroyed in minutes. It is only in continuing to put forth an open, honest, positive image that a person can rise above and stay there.

I can think of quite a few examples of people in my life who have stood tall amidst the crowd as moral and ethical giants. Those men and women remain etched in my memory, and I find they tended to be very successful. Perhaps they did not have large material wealth, but they were happy in life and enjoyed their work. That defines success for me. I hope to bring these ideas to future students, hopefully by example as well as by my words. I know I owe a huge debt of gratitude for those who have been such examples to me.

-- Robert

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