Measuring Authentic Leadership

I was asked recently what characteristics I look for in an Authentic Leader. Well that’s a big question and the answer would consume several blog posts. But perhaps the most important “characteristic” isn’t a characteristic at all. It also isn’t “in” the leader. 

If I want to know how authentic a leader is, and how effective they are, I don’t look at the leader. I look at the people they lead. I look to see if their followers are authentic as well. Are they committed to the leader? Are they engaged and consistently motivated? Are they accomplishing extraordinary things?

Most important, what percentage of them are moving beyond Authentic Followership to become leaders themselves?

The most common shortcoming of limited leaders is they fail to help their followers become leaders. I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve seen people in leadership positions lose an opportunity for promotion. The opportunity was lost because they had not built even one of their followers into a leader capable of taking over their role. 

I frequently see leaders who move on, either to retire or move up into a different organization, and there is no one on their team prepared to step in and lead. It happens again and again. In every organization. Every single day. 

If you’re in a leadership position and you’re not working with your people to help them grow from follower to leader then you may possess certain characteristics of an Authentic Leader but you are not leading authentically. 

Authentic Leaders do not create more followers, they create more leaders. Leaders who grow more leaders leave behind a legacy that limited leaders can’t. 

If you’re trying to determine if someone is an Authentic Leader look at the people they lead. If they are transforming from follower to leader then it’s very likely the person leading them is a true Authentic Leader. If not then they are in all likelihood being led by a leader who is at least somewhat limited. 

Leaders who help followers become leaders have the potential to unleash explosive growth within their organization. They have the potential to help ordinary people achieve extraordinary accomplishments. Their leadership outlasts their time as a leader. 

When you see a leader like that you know you’re looking at an Authentic Leader. That‘s true even if you can’t see the obvious characteristics of Authentic Leadership.

One Way to Grow a Leader

It sounds odd but one of the best methods a leader has for growing future leaders is to not lead. Well at least not lead the way most people think of leading which is to be out front showing the way. 


What I really mean is to lead from the rear. Push your future leaders out front and see what they can do. 


If your goal as a leader is to grow more leaders (that should most certainly be one of your goals as a leader) then you must first understand that leadership can’t really be taught, it must be experienced. You can tell your followers what leadership characteristics are important, you can talk about making good decisions and the sacrifices that Authentic Leaders make but you can’t build a leader with words alone. 


So from time to time you must allow your future leaders to lead today. Right now, ready or not here they come! They may make mistakes along the way but you’ll be there to help them fix it. Notice, and this is key, I didn’t say you’ll be there to fix it for them, I said you’ll be there to help them fix it. 


Sometimes you may even see the mistake coming but you’ll let it happen anyway, just so your future leader can learn from it. I wouldn’t suggest sitting back and watching a serious mistake just happen but if the mistake involves only minor consequences then use it as a teaching opportunity. 


Your future leaders are far more likely to learn from a mistake they had to fix than they are to learn from a mistake you didn’t let happen. 


Not allowing your future leaders to take the helm from time to time is like planting grass seed with no intention of ever watering it. It may always have potential but everyone knows it will never be a yard the kids can play in.

Sometimes, maybe even often, the best thing a leader can do to grow future leaders is to simply get the heck out of their way. Give ‘em a push and stand back, lead from the rear and watch your leaders of tomorrow grow.


Transformational Leadership

One of the eight major leadership theories is known as the Relationship Theory of Leadership, also known as Transformational Leadership. Transformational leaders motivate and inspire people by helping team members see the importance of their role within the organization. These leaders are focused on the performance of team members and also want to help each person fulfill his or her potential. Leaders with this style often have high ethical and moral standards.

I am a big fan of and believer in Transformational Leadership. 

I believe in Transformational Leadership because transformational leaders leave something of value behind after they are gone. They leave more leaders. 

Transactional Leaders have high but reasonable expectations for their people. They inspire them to put forth their best effort because it is simply the right thing to do. They help their people through coaching and mentoring to achieve extraordinary outcomes and to develop their own leadership skills. In short, they help ordinary people accomplish the extraordinary.

Transformational leaders help followers grow by responding to their followers’ needs and by empowering them to make decisions. These leaders help to align the objectives and goals of the individual followers with the goals and objectives of the team and even the larger organization.

Researchers have found that this style of leadership indeed has the desired positive effect on people. “Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders,” explained psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio in an article appearing on the Psychology Today website. 

Transformational Leadership reinforces the importance of truly caring for the people you lead. Transformational Leadership requires that the leader invest a part of themselves in their people and that they care as much (or more) about the success of their people as they do their own.

Transformational Leaders fully understand that ultimately their own success is completely dependent upon the success of their people. Virtually every action they take and every word they speak reflects that understanding. 

The effort required to be a Transformational Leader is substantial but so are the rewards. Anyone can build stuff but it takes a special kind of person to build people, especially people who themselves become leaders.

Transformational Leadership is a rewarding style of leadership and if the leaders you help build eventually build leaders of their own then the rewards can go on indefinitely. 

Now that’s what I call leadership! 


Do You See Everyone as a “10?”

imagePretty much everyone, no matter their business or where they live, understand what it is to be a “10.” 10 is perfection. 10 is what almost everyone wants to be. To be a 10 means you are awesome.

Here’s what you may not know: everyone is a 10.

I know some of you are thinking “he obviously doesn’t know _____________. You go ahead and fill in the blank. BUT….before you do you may want to rethink that a bit. Your willingness to fill in the blank indicates you have some growing left to do as a leader.

You have some growing left to do because the best leaders know that in some way, some how, everyone is a 10. Authentic Servant Leaders work to bring that “10” to the surface. They work to help people find and use their strengths to become a full-fledged 10.

Managers tend to focus on the weakness of their people; leaders focus on their strengths.

You get more from your people by developing and using their strengths then you’ll ever get by trying to develop or eliminate their weaknesses. Stop trying to put square pegs into a round hole; to grow your organization you must learn your people’s strengths, develop their strengths even further and place them in a role where their strengths can be put to use.

Here is a good rule of thumb: invest 70% of your time developing your people’s strengths, 25% of your time helping them learn something new and only 5% of your time should be spent working on their weaknesses.

If you have a team then use the team. Understand that not everyone has to be great at everything. So long as everyone is great at something and you have them doing what they are great at, you’ll have a great team.

As a leader it is your responsibility to to discover their “10” (even if they haven’t) and help them use their “10” in a way that enables them to excel.

Worry less about what your people are and focus more on what they can become. Help your people develop their own vision of a desirable future and then help them achieve it by using their strengths. Every person you will ever lead is in someway a 10, when you help them discover that you will have helped them succeed.

The Ultimate Test of Leadership

The ultimate test of leadership is this: Do you as a leader have the ability to help common people achieve uncommon performance? Can you help a follower or a weak leader become a strong leader?

A leader, a true leader anyway, has many responsibilities. Leadership requires sacrifice, commitment and often, steadfast determination to push further when those around you are suggesting that you don’t.

I believe that the greatest of all leadership responsibilities is building people, and hopefully, building them into leaders. If as a leader, you fail to develop a leader who can fill your role upon your departure then it’s unlikely that your leadership can be deemed a complete success. Leaders who cannot build more leaders are limited leaders. That is not my opinion, that is a fact.

That limitation will also limit almost every other aspect of an organization’s growth. That’s simple math; two leaders can grow an organization faster than one, three can grow it faster than two, four can… well, you get the idea.

The challenge for leaders is that people development requires time and too many people in leadership positions believe they can’t afford the time required. These would be the same “leaders” who proudly say that their people are their greatest asset while investing more resources in service contracts for their copiers and computers than they do in developing their people.

As the saying goes, “follow the money.” When organizations don’t invest dollars in their people it makes it hard to believe that they would invest time. If the organization isn’t investing time in people development then it’s almost certain that the leader isn’t either.

If you’re a leader who wants to build more leaders then first you must understand that you can’t and should not try to lead through them. You provide leadership to them and give them the opportunity to lead others. You need to help them develop their own leadership skills and let their leadership flow through the organization.

If you’re interested in building future leaders then be a bit unreasonable. No one gets stronger by lifting the weight they are comfortable lifting. Build leaders by challenging them with seemingly unreasonable goals; goals they cannot accomplish on their own. This will encourage them to rally other people to the cause. It will likely require innovation, planning, diligence, patience, people skills, and most of all, leadership.

They will need to set direction, and coach others towards success, they will need to develop their own team of leaders. If you give all your future leaders goals you’re certain they should, can, and will achieve then you’re treating them like a follower, not a leader. Remember, making a diamond requires pressure, a raw leader who is never pressured is likely to remain just a raw, and weak, leader.

Avoid “over-coaching” your future leaders. Set clear, measurable objectives and let them run. If they need and willingly accept coaching all the time they are probably not future leaders. Leaders like coaching when they ask for it and need it; only followers want and accept coaching all the time.

Help them to believe in themselves and you’ll be amazed at what they can accomplish. Their results will be uncommon and you will have passed the ultimate test of leadership; you’ll have developed your organization’s next generation of leaders.

Delegate the Details!


The higher up the leadership ladder you go the less detail oriented you should be. If that seems counterintuitive to you then you just might be a micromanager!

This is a clear example of the “what got you here won’t keep you here” kinda thing that many motivational speakers talk about. When successful people first start out every detail matters to them. They know that it’s not really the devil in the details; they know that their success is in the details.

The challenge for these detail-oriented people is that as they move up in an organization the very details that helped them move up are now blocking their view of the bigger picture they should be seeing.

These successful people have clearly learned a lot from the people above them but they missed one huge lesson – leave the details to the people who will follow you into leadership positions.

Great leaders are not detail oriented but they used to be. That’s how they got to be great leaders. What keeps them being great leaders is trusting the people they lead with the details. Leaders set the vision, they pass along the big picture and determine outcomes.

When they delegate they provide coaching and the required outcome. They provide an outline of rules, budgets and resources and then they get the heck out of the way.

Great leaders help build more leaders by allowing their people to handle the details. Effective leadership means letting your people make little mistakes so that when they becomes leaders they won’t make big mistakes.

If you’re a micromanager then you’re costing your organization a lot of money and you are limiting the growth of future leaders. If you’re the top leader in your organization then micromanaging is really expensive. It’s really expensive because you’re wasting your time and your time is more valuable than anyone else’s. If you’re really a leader then you should not be doing a single thing that someone who works for you could be doing. You should only do the things that only you can do.

If you’ve hired the right people, if your people are honest, have integrity and are good stewards of their time then trust them. The outcomes of their actions remain your responsibility but the details are not.

Trust yourself that you have the right people doing the right things. If you can’t trust your people then your people will not trust you. Without trust, there can be no authentic leadership.

With the details out of the way you can see what you’re supposed to see, you can see the future.