How I addressed my difficulties in being an authentic leader

Getting to know who you are and what you are is tough!! And that’s OK!!

In mid-1995 I parachuted into the top 100 managers within BAA PLC. I was considered a rough diamond; with no formal leadership development. My leadership experience had come from being involved in leading large scale capital development projects. So over the next few years I found myself on various local and international executive leadership development programmes.

During this time I recognised my deep-rooted lack of self-esteem which was holding me back from sharing my light and really contributing to the organisation's post-privatisation culture change programme. I had a habitual compliant leadership pattern of behaviour and a low level of emotional intelligence (self-awareness in particular) which was restricting me from forming meaningful, trusting relationships and coalitions within the senior leadership team.

I decided to put myself through a rigorous personal leadership development programme. I unearthed my purpose and meaning in life. The outcome was a realisation that my job did not give me meaning.

I did my best to put my ladder up against my own wall and enjoyed some great roles and a double promotion. Eventually in late 2003 I decided to set up my own business (On Purpose Ltd) and be totally the master of my own destiny.

Here are my key learnings about the journey to becoming an authentic leader:

  1. Get to know who you are: Your self-awareness and self-knowledge form the basis of your key choices in how you'll exercise your power as a leader.
  2. Recognise any limiting behaviours: Become aware of how you react in your relationships in ways which may limit you.
  3. Learn to deeply trust your intuition: Develop your ability to focus on your felt senses and their meaning.
  4. Say your truth to power: Your followers will only respect you if you respect yourself.
  5. Fearlessness: The journey to authenticity is never ending. You'll only learn along the way by making mistakes.
  6. Know your story: Develop a sense of where you are in life's journey in terms of your past, present and future.
  7. Know what gives you meaning: To choose well, within the givens of uncertainty and ambiguity, you need to know where you're going, what's important to you, what you're good at, how you aim to get there, what may be holding you back, and why.

However, the best teacher of being an authentic leader is to teach it??!! Not until I was face-to-face with an executive coaching client and standing up in front of a class of leaders on On Purpose Ltds "Developing Authentic Leaders" development programme did I really need to face up to being an Authentic Leader.

What are your learnings around becoming an authentic leader?? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Some experiences which will enable you in leading authentically:

  • Personal Leadership at Work: To draw out what gives you meaning at work to cope with change
  • Mindfulness Based Authentic Leadership: To develop a mindfulness practice to help you ease into being an authentic leader
  • Aberdeen Leadership Forum: A narrative approach to authentic leadership

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