I’m sometimes asked how I can tell when someone is an Authentic Leader. People want to know what to look for, what to listen for and what “signs” signify that someone is an Authentic Leader.
While there are certainly identifiable character traits of Authentic Leadership there is one surefire way to know without a doubt that someone is an Authentic Leader. They leave a trail behind them. The trail is littered with leaders.
Authentic Leaders invest the time required to develop their people. They begin the process of developing their people with the understanding that people need to be reminded more than they need to be taught. That is particularly true when it comes to leadership.
Leadership is “modeled” much more than it is taught. That’s why it is so important that leaders always keep in mind that they are the models for successful leadership behaviors. They don’t tell people what to do, they show them. They know that people will do what their leader does 1000 times faster than they will do what their leader says.
Authentic Leaders grow new leaders through consistency and persistence. They don’t offer drive by coaching. They know that elevating others requires work, patience and a willingness to suffer the occasional setback. Maybe even more than occasional. They don’t coach in their free time, instead they set aside time, often daily, to invest in their people. They don’t provide all the answers for their people, they help their people develop answers on their own.
One of the reasons Authentic Leaders don’t give all the answers is that they admit they don’t have all the answers to begin with. They are willing to learn from anyone, anytime. They know the best leaders are constant learners. They also are not afraid to admit when they are wrong or have made a mistake. They take ownership of and responsibility for, their actions.
They also give ownership away to help their people grow. They delegate tasks and the responsibility for getting them done. They allow their people to take ownership of the task. The allow them to make decisions and determine the steps to make to ensure successful completion of the task.
Authentic Leaders know that the best way to help people learn to make decisions is to let them make decisions. That also means allowing them to clean up the messes they make from a poor decision.
Authentic Leaders make most every decision with an eye towards the future. The full future. That includes who they will leave behind as leaders when their own time in the top spot comes to a close.
I ask people in leadership positions who they are currently developing to fill future leadership positions. Many of them tell me they are too busy leading to “spend” time on developing people. That tells me without a doubt that while they may hold a leadership position they most certainly are not an Authentic Leader.
Authentic Leaders consistently “invest” the time to develop the next generation of leaders and they leave a substantial trail of leaders behind them as a result.
So…who are you developing today for the leadership roles of tomorrow?
3 thoughts on “The Trail of an Authentic Leader”
“Have a team so strong that you don’t know who the leader is” – Unknown
I agree with the concept. Ideally the leader can lead from the front, middle or back. But there will be times when the leadership structure of an organization must be crystal clear. People need to know exactly where and who the direction is coming from.