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Entries from October 2010

Leading with Authenticity

25th October 2010

The term authentic leadership has been around for a while and a key starting point for any leader to be truly authentic is to know what your values are. Why is this important you might ask? Well, the word authenticity means a particular way of dealing with the external world, being faithful to internal rather than external ideas; being truthful of your commitments and intentions. Our values are in essence our internal compass and give us clues to our internal standards and measures. They are what we hold dear and are what’s important to us and are therefore pivotal in what motivates us. They are often unconscious and I am often surprised by how few people really know what their values are. When we are clear about our values we can make decisions more clearly and often faster, understand what motivates us and when we are being true to our values we will be more energised. So what is a value? Values are something we naturally move towards or away from, they are the things we are willing to spend energy on. They are largely unconscious and drive a persons true purpose. They provide the push, or motivation to take action and serve as an evaluation criteria, or judgement about our actions. They are the way we judge good or bad, right and wrong, appropriateness or inappropriateness. We organise our values hierarchically, so those higher up the hierarchy we search for first in terms of decision-making, evaluating etc. Once the higher values have been satisfied those lower down the hierarchy are then satisfied. It’s not automatic that once you have fulfilled the higher values those lower down are satisfied. They also determine our behaviour. Someone with a values hierarchy of adventure, family happiness, health, pleasure, and wisdom will handle a situation very differently from someone with a values hierarchy of order, loyalty, freedom, achievement and friendship. The relevance to leadership? At every moment of every day someone in your team or peer group is watching you – a scary thought! Consciously or unconsciously they are looking at how you behave and how consistent you are being in your approach. They are also looking at whether your actions are congruent with your words. Leading your life, as well as people, from your values, is more likely to have you be authentic and consistent in the way you make decisions, evaluate performance and go about your routines. You are also more likely to begin to understand others values and therefore what motivates them, and through practice will learn how to motivate them and influence them more effectively. We are all unique individuals and even though some of us may use the same term to describe a value such as achievement what it means to us may be very different. How do I know when I’m not living my values? If you are not living by your values you are likely to be unhappy, and if you don’t know what your values are you won’t be able to pinpoint exactly why you are not happy. If someone violates one of your values you will also feel a degree of discomfort, hurt, annoyed or angry and it won’t always be obvious why you feel this way. How do I determine my values? If you have not yet identified what your values are at work, what is important to you about the work you do, talk to someone who knows how to elicit your values with you. It’s a fairly quick exercise to do. Alternatively, find a good coach or mentor who can do this with you or you can go to this website: and complete an online questionnaire. So if you truly want to be an authentic leader embody your values in daily life. It won’t always be easy, particularly when faced with decisions that may not match your value set, however it will be more energising and rewarding.

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