My previous post, “How Do You Define Your Leadership Framework, resulted in more positive comments and emails than I ever imagined. People said they’re challenged by the question:
“Imagine for a minute that you have to prepare a resume where you can’t highlight the college you attended, what degrees you hold, your work experience or the project achievements you have had up to this point. The only data you can put on your resume pertains to who you are as a leader and what you have demonstrated. How would the resume read?”
Thought provoking, it led many to deep reflection and to embark on the Journey to Authentic Leadership. I even had an opportunity to mentor Jim Gulnac from the Hickory/Lenoir, North Carolina area. Through email, we collaborated so he could write his own Leadership Framework. What a joy it is for me to have read the final version! I never met Jim in person and don’t know if our paths will ever cross, but Jim is a friend for life who knows the essence of his leadership.
From the comments, I learned that not everyone gets the notion of Authentic Leadership. A corporate Vice-President wrote the following, “Our organization has a set of core values and related behaviors that we call our “Leadership Framework.” We believe that everyone in an organization has the capacity to be a “leader” and leaders are those individuals who exemplify ethical behavior, and make principled decisions and not pragmatic ones. Our performance assessment process completely integrates not just evaluation of performance, but evaluation (including self-evaluation) of whether performance is principled and consistent with our Leadership Framework.
In other words, being a leader is exhibiting the core values of an organization”
This sounds really good, right? When framed in an organizational context, I heartily agree with the response. But what happens when people leave work for the day? What happens to corporate values and behaviors when we are no longer in the company of our co-workers?
As employees, we comply with corporate values and behaviors because we want to remain employed and secure a decent merit increase during the year-end review cycle. But as we work for different companies through the years, each one has different core values and behaviors. No two businesses are the same. Organizational leadership is not the same thing as Authentic Leadership. The two notions, while intrinsically linked, couldn’t be further apart. They’re as distant cousins living on opposite coasts, related by birth, but separated by miles. Authentic Leadership knows the essence of leadership. It understands the foundations upon which all our leader thoughts and actions are built. It supersedes organizational leadership because it is about you, the person…the leader within.
Authentic Leadership starts with serious reflection about what you want to achieve in your life. John Gardner, author of “On Leadership”, talks about the importance of “discovery:”
“Meaning is not something you stumble across like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experiences of human kind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something.”
All the ingredients for Authentic Leadership are present in your life. You alone can discover and blend them together into the unique pattern that you are as a leader.
I’m discussing this topic in more detail at the March 18th meeting of the Association of Information Technology Professionals in Raleigh, NC. If you are in the Raleigh area at that time, please come. Guests are always welcome. For details, visit the AITP Raleigh Chapter website at http://www.rtp-aitp.org/.