3 Steps 2 Authentic Leadership

The world we live in yearns for authentic leadership. We are tired of empty promises from leaders that protect the status qua. A status qua where only the elite few benefit. Beneath our addiction to a consuming life style, we yearn for realness.

So let us stop yearning. Let us become authentic leaders ourselves and create the change we want.

Allow me to share, what I think, are 3 important building blocks in becoming an authentic leader.

1. Know yourself

To be authentic you have to know who you are authentic about. Sounds a bit like stating the obvious, but there is a significant center to this.

Authenticity asks that we accurately distinguish between the persona or mask we use and who we really are. Our persona act like shields that we present to the outside world. They are our first line of defense against possible harm. They are useful in that they create space for us in which we can choose how to act authentically.

That said we also need to be aware of the traps associated with these persona. One trap is over identification were we can start believing we are our persona. People overly identify with what they project to others, attaching unhealthy importance to the acceptance of these persona (for example you would rather be dead than be seen without designer label clothes). Secondly these persona can be ineffective. A person can assume a persona of being weak and incompetent, thinking they need to manipulate people to get what they want, or the opposite, having a persona of being so strong and that nothing touches us so we do not need anybody’s help. Persona that harm us on the long run are unhealthy. So we need to distinguish between them and our true self.

Our true self is our beautiful self. This self is the scared self, the self that offers our unique strengths to the world in servitude, fully acknowledging the risk that this service will not always be appreciated. This self knows its limitations and thrives in the space that these limitations create.

Authentic leaders live from their true self.

2. Have a clear vision

Authentic leaders have a vision of what can be. They see a future with possibilities. They have a deep knowing that today’s reality is not all there is. They understand that in the greater evolution of the universe, change is the only constant. They harness this slow and sure force to bring about improvement.

They also understand that sustainable change, is change were everybody benefits from. Therefore they resist the natural pull of accepting that “this is as good as it gets”. They also accept the responsibility of changing for the improvement of all. Even when reality shouts accusations of insanity.

Martin Luther King had a dream; Nelson Mandela understood the future reality of a multiracial South Africa. These leaders lived with a faith that compelled and captured them to create the new reality they saw.

3. Know and use the power of vulnerability

Vulnerability is the twin sister of authenticity. They are the two sides of the same coin.

Paradoxically authentic leaders also acknowledge their own weakness. They are honest about their doubts and they looked for the courage to share it appropriately. And in this vulnerability, sharing their doubts and fears, they offer people the chance to join them in driving the change everybody seeks.

Every authentic leader is afraid. Fear is our friend. It wants to protect us. But it also keeps us in the same place. Sometimes we need to proceed in the face of fear. For on the other side of our fear is the strength we yearn for, on the other side of that which we fear is our liberation.

Being vulnerable does not equal weakness. Inside vulnerability lays a deep core strength. One that knows that hurting is temporally, a strength that stakes its life on the ability to bounce back no matter what. This strength taps into the deep knowledge that things change and that change brings renewal, second chances, and the ability to try again. This strength strangely liberates us from hurting. It allows us to be our true self; it gives us the courage to follow our dream as it cuts off the strings that hold us back.

With vulnerability

Hollow Certainty

As humans we are programmed through the ages to move towards certainty. Our brains are hardwired to constantly make sense of the world we live in. It does not like uncertainty. It needs to predict what will happen next in order to be prepared enough to survive.

We live in a society that creates certainty for the same reason. There are traffic laws so that we can predict what the other driver is supposed to do. We have social norms in relationships in order for us to feel save in such a relationships.

What really puts my mind in a spin is the fact that everything changes. Change is the only constant we can be sure of. How come we spend so much mental energy to create mind maps that gives us this hollow certainty?

Take the weather for example. There are some times, when you can predict weather well for the next 15 days. Other times, you can’t predict the next two hours.

“The business climate, it turns out, is a lot like the weather. And we’ve entered a next-two-hours era. The pace of change in our economy and our culture is accelerating — fueled by global adoption of social, mobile, and other new technologies–and our visibility about the future is declining.

Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril. Despite recession, currency crises, and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead. The frictionless spread of information and the expansion of personal, corporate, and global networks have plenty of room to run. And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos[1].”

We try to create certainty of this chaos by labeling them with theories like the Chaos Theory or the Evolution Theory. This really helps me a lot. I like it when I can put a name to something. At the same time, it does nothing for the experience of chaos that is constantly there. Of course we can deny it and belief in preconditioned reality, but is this authentic (and save) enough to live in?

I understand that I am part of this chaotic system. My challenge is to engage with this chaos, taste it, feel it (not my fear) and excel in it.

But I must be honest – I still hold on to the edge with one hand.

With a spinning head.