Authentic or Effective Leadership?

Trust! It is a vital element of leadership, at least Authentic Servant Leadership. I suppose an effective leader can get away with a lack of trust, but the leadership of someone who is merely effective is limited.

If you’re wondering about the difference between an effective leader and an Authentic Servant Leader here is my take on it: an effective leader can influence people to take action, they can chart a course for their people and the can make a difference in the lives of those they lead… it may not be a positive difference but it will be a difference.

An effective leader can even build other leaders but it’s very unlikely that an effective leader will ever develop an Authentic Servant Leader.

On the other hand an Authentic Servant Leader can do everything an effective leader can do and so much more. They are far more likely to develop other, future leaders. The leaders they develop will be much more likely to be Authentic Servant Leaders one day. Authentic Servant Leaders create a culture where people care, a culture where everyone matters and a culture where people values are every bit as important as performance values.

Now, this post was supposed to be all about trust but since I’ve gotten off on this tangent I’m going to keep going. I guess “trust” will be my next post.

If you’re questioning whether your leader is merely effective or an Authentic Servant leader then maybe this next batch of words will help clarify that for you.

Somehow people have it in their heads that “authentic” means perfect. Nope, that’s not at all what it means. It means “conforming to fact and therefore worthy of belief” or “not counterfeit or copied.”

Authentic Leaders are genuine, the real deal. They lead, they make good things happen. The real difference comes when we add the word “servant.” A servant is described as a “person working in the service of another.”

If the individual leading you has your best interests in mind then it is very likely that they are a servant leader. If they can combine that with great judgcernment, (the vital combination of judgment and discernment) a willingness to make decisions, even when risk is attached, a vivid, forward looking vision and the ability to apply their emotions in a positive fashion then they may well be an Authentic Servant Leader.

Here’s something else you need to know about Authentic Servant Leaders: you may not always agree with them. They may have one idea about what’s in your best interests while you have something different in mind. They may ask you to do things you may not want to do, this happens because they will most often keep in mind that the good of the many outweighs the good of the one… that just means they put the good of the organization above the good of any one individual, even if they are that one individual.

Authentic Servant Leaders make mistakes, they do things at times that they regret later. Why, on their worst days they can even appear to be merely human… just like the rest of us.

“Authentic” doesn’t mean perfect and “servant” doesn’t mean doormat. Authentic Servant Leaders will makes mistakes and they won’t always do what we want them to do. Overall, working for, or even alongside a truly Authentic Servant Leader is a life-building experience, if you’ll simply let it be.

Do yourself a favor and let it be.

7 thoughts on “Authentic or Effective Leadership?

  1. Steve, thanks for the great post. I think of “authentic” as having integrity. Their character lines up with their actions. No smoke and mirrors. That’s where we came up with the idea of character-based leadership.

    As for servant leaders, I always feel the best ones serve the goal or the organization. As long as I or any other team member sees our best interests in the context of the organization, the servant leader will be working for both the team’s and for my individual best interests. But if my interests don’t align, they’re obligated to serve the team, organization or goal, rather than simply serving me. Like you state above, they’re not supposed to be a doormat. They’re supposed to do whatever they can to insure that the organization AND the individuals win.

    Thanks again for a thoughtful post. Mike…

    • Thanks Mike…. not to embarrass you but I and many others see you as a model for Authentic Servant Leadership. You are the inspiration and drive behind LeadChange. You make a difference everyday and even more important, you inspire others, including me, to do the same!

  2. Steven Cartier says:

    Wow powerful read. It’s ok to be human? Makes me feel like I am doing the right thing. Lead with your heart, but don’t forget to bring your head along for the journey.

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