“Authentic leadership is at the root of cultures of great innovation, engagement, outstanding client experiences, and growth” Henna Inam; CEO of Transformational Leadership, Inc.
Imagine a world where everyone was driven and supported to fulfill their full potential – where leaders were focused on empowering their teams, encouraging them to be their best selves. A world where community governorship and decision making were based on positively impacting the constituents of that community and where corporate leadership was driven based equally on the companies’ employees and customers needs.
From my perspective, this is the foundation of authentic leadership.
Admittedly, I have not always held these beliefs. When I first started out in my career, I was quite immature from a leadership perspective. I thought that leadership was about me. Over time, as I have grown and matured, I’ve come to realize that leadership has zero to do with me - and 100% to do with the people around me. Leadership is not about how I feel; it is about how the people whom I mentor, guide and lead feel after they have interacted with me! Leadership is not about me speaking to others - it is about me listening and creating a safe environment where my peers and direct reports feel comfortable speaking to me - where they view me as a trusted adviser.
What is authentic leadership?
Authentic leadership is a recently coined but widely accepted term in today’s work environment. It is a more inclusive, collaborative approach to leadership. By definition, “Authentic leadership is an approach to leadership that emphasizes building the leader's legitimacy through honest relationships with followers [who] value their input and are built on an ethical foundation. Generally, authentic leaders are positive people with truthful self-concepts who promote openness.” (Wikipedia et al.)
Leading organizations are built around empowered teams, driven by purpose, and led by exceptional and diverse individuals. Effective companies not only create a positive work environment but, more often than not, have truly inspiring leaders. These leaders must not only lead with purpose – they must embody the company’s mission and values. They must inspire employees, investors, and consumers at every level, creating a positive image of their organization and a meaningful culture that’s in turn driven by their most important asset: their people.
The path to authentic leadership
So how does an individual truly succeed as a leader? How have leadership styles changed over time, and how does that impact individuals who want to take on a leadership role within their organization?
At VXI, authentic leadership is a core value that is developed and nurtured. We have several programs in place to cultivate the skill of authentic leadership. These start with identifying the traits of an authentic leader and identifying individuals who possess those traits. These traits include:
- Ability to focus on long-term goals
- Ability to lead with your heart (not exclusively with your head)
These base skills are, for the most part, part of a person’s baseline character - but they need to be nurtured in order to grow.
Once individuals with leadership potential are identified, we have a curriculum to help employees nurture and grow their innate skills. VXI programs such as Mentoring with Integrity, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Training (adapted from Stephen Covey’s framework) and our Gold Star and Silver Star leadership training are just a few ways we work to develop our prospective leaders and to assure that they have a career path through the organization. These programs help VXI to both and attract top leadership talent.
So, are leaders born or made? We feel it is a little bit of both. What do you think?