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.