Authenticity in troubling times like these is key to engendering trust in those that depend on your decisions and perspectives. This trust is key to keeping your people focused and positive in a crisis and to reducing stress in times of uncertainty. Post crisis this trust will be key to rebuilding and in leading the recovery.
Authentic leadership is composed of four distinct components.
Self-Awareness (“Know Thyself”). A prerequisite for being an authentic leader is knowing your own strengths, limitations, and values. Knowing what you stand for and what you value is critical. It’s important to understand that self-awareness underpins the development of the other components of authentic leadership.
Relational Transparency (“Be Genuine”). This involves being honest and straightforward in dealing with others. An authentic leader does not play games or have a hidden agenda. You know where you stand with an authentic leader. Because of this you can be trusted – if you say its going to be ok people are going to believe you.
Balanced Processing (“Be Fair-Minded”). An effective authentic leader solicits opposing viewpoints and considers all options before choosing a course of action. There is no impulsive action or “hidden agendas”—plans are well thought out and openly discussed. They are shared with and include followers. A fair leader can build consensus in the right way and bring people with him. People pulling together can make all the difference in a fight for survival.
Internalized Moral Perspective (“Do the Right Thing”). An authentic leader has an ethical core. She or he knows the right thing to do and is driven by a concern for ethics and fairness. The roots of authentic leadership come from ancient greek philosophy that focuses on the development of core, or cardinal, virtues. These virtues are prudence (fair-mindedness, wisdom, seeing all possible courses of action); temperance (being emotionally balanced and in control); justice (being fair in dealings with others); and fortitude (courage to do the right thing).
Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring out your authentic self.
Becoming an authentic leader is not easy. Hopefully you established your credentials before this crisis and so your people can trust you and you in turn can get the best from them. But sometimes it takes a crisis to bring out your Authentic self. Are you like Hal Moore, the “first onto the battlefield” and “the last to leave the battlefield” sort of leader? How do you show this?
When your people are operating in anger or anxiety they are, of course, not as effective. This at a time when a survival mode mindset and maximum effort is required. It takes a calm trustworthiness in a leader with a steady hand to help people with this. Remember you may not know all the answers but you don’t pretend to – you work with others to find them and then make the best decisions you can. It is as always, about caring for and empowering your people and showing humility and compassion in everything you do. Even the hard decisions.
It takes a great deal of self-reflection (getting to know oneself), and the courage to do the right thing. It involves a degree of selflessness. We are seeing during the Pandemic many authentic leaders stepping forward. And we are also seeing the opposite.
Soon you will be leading the recovery and how you lead now will prepare for a much more successful outcome.