Author Bill George (2003) writes, “We need new leadership. We need authentic leaders, people of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organizations” (pg. 5). In writing, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, Bill George challenges readers to become authentic leaders. He further describes authentic leaders as leaders who demonstrate a passion for purpose, consistently practice their own values, and lead with their hearts as well as their heads. These leaders are people who are able to establish meaningful relationships with others that last a long time. In short, authentic leaders are leaders who know themselves very well.
Becoming an Authentic Leader
Authentic leadership requires a commitment to developing oneself. Kouzes and Posner (2007) stated, “there’s solid evidence that the best leaders are highly attuned to what’s going on inside themselves as they are leading and to what’s going on with others. They’re very self-aware” (p 86). In order to become an authentic leader, George discusses the need for self awareness in order to be aware of one’s weaknesses so that improvement can be made. The route to becoming an authentic leader requires one to understand life’s purpose, practice solid values, lead with the heart, establish connected relationships, and demonstrate self-discipline. Robert K. Greenleaf (1970) discussed the need for servant leaders to develop the skills of listening and empathy in order to better establish relationships with others as well as lead with the heart. Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee (2002) continue to describe self awareness as one of the four domains of emotional intelligence. They write, “simply put, self-awareness means having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, as well as one’ strengths and limitations and one’s values and motives” (p. 40).
Building an Authentic Company
“The best-kept secret in business is that mission-driven companies create far more shareholder value than do financially driven firms” (George, 2003, p. 61). Authentic leaders create and build companies that are guided by a mission and vision that are consistent with a set of shared values. As George writes, authentic companies share the following five characteristics: Purpose: Mission and vision, Values: Company values, Heart: Empowering employees to serve customers, Relationships: Enduring and committed organizations, and Self-Discipline: Results for all stakeholders. He describes authentic companies as organizations that place an emphasis on stewardship to the people they serve. Greenleaf (1970) discussed Stewardship as one of the ten characteristics of a Servant Leader. The author described a servant leader as one who holds in trust something for another. Bill George describes authentic leaders who build authentic companies as leaders who, “measure their success by the extent to which they fulfill the needs and desires of the diverse constituencies” (p. 71). George continues to write, “authentic leaders know that only by pursuing their missions with passion and commitment can they create sustainable value for their customers, their employees, and their shareholders” (p. 70).
In the Crucible of the Market
The ways in which authentic leaders who build and lead authentic companies achieve success in the marketplace is by avoiding pitfalls to sustainable growth. George identifies seven pitfalls that authentic companies should avoid in order to prevent breaking the organization’s growth cycle resulting in long term decline. The seven pitfalls to avoid are: working without a clear mission, underestimating the core business, depending on a single product line, failing to spot technology and market changes, changing strategy without changing culture, going outside core competencies, and counting on acquisitions for growth. George states, “leaders with a burning passion for their missions have a laserlike focus on overcoming barriers” (p. 117).
Beyond the Bottom Line
George discusses how authentic leaders understand that their responsibilities go way beyond the bottom line success of the company. According to the author, these leaders should be working toward building a sound governing system that will develop leadership for the company for generations to come. In addition, George discusses how authentic leaders tackle public policy issues and societal concerns. The author closes the book with questioning what the reader’s unique calling is. In Greenleaf’s work on Servant Leadership, the idea of working for a higher calling is prevalent. Goleman, et al (2002) state, “leaders work under the assumption that nothing important gets done alone” (p. 51). The following tips will help you as you work toward becoming a more authentic leader.
· Develop your sense of self-awareness by listening to what others have to say about your strengths and your weaknesses.
· Find out what your life’s passion is.
· Make a difference today! If not you, then who? If not now, then when?