Stepping Into Authentic Leadership

Leadership Puzzle PiecesSome people believe that leaders are born.  Still others think that leaders are “called” to leadership.  I believe that although some people have natural abilities that make the move into leadership a relatively easy transition, we all have the capacity to lead and lead well.  Leadership skills can be consciously cultivated.

So, what makes a leader great?  That question defies a simple answer.  Great leadership is personality driven, temporal in nature and dependent upon context and culture as well.  In other words, there is not a formula for becoming a great leader.  Rather, it is a combination of individualized components that determines success.

I frequently work with individuals who are stepping into leadership for the first time.  Some have been elevated within their organizations to lead a team or group, others have stepped up to lead a company, and still others are leading initiatives, projects or non-profits.  Many of these individuals who have never led before are concerned that they don’t know how.  Most have been elevated into leadership because they are particularly good at doing something as an individual contributor and the reward for all that good work is that they are moved into a role where they no longer do the work, but instead lead a team of people who do the work they used to do.  They have been shifted from “do-er” to leader.

This is where I often come into the picture.  Typically the new leader has read a book or two about leadership but has no formal leadership training.  And, while books are helpful to people making the transition, I find that the most important components of leadership are those that come from the inside out – such as authenticity, integrity, empathy, transparency, vulnerability, and connection.  Good leaders create their own leadership style and do so consciously.

If you are new to leadership or contemplating a leadership role, think about leaders you have worked with in the past – the good, the bad and the ugly.  What worked?  What didn’t?  Of those things that worked for someone else, ask yourself how you can adapt those behaviors to your own operating style.  Everyone’s leadership style is somewhat different because we are all different.

Learn about your own unique strengths and abilities.  Begin to understand how those translate into leadership.  One of the tools I often use with clients is the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB).  The HAB measures natural abilities, and the HAB Leadership Report then speaks to how the individual’s abilities affect and influence his or her leadership.  It also provides insights into leadership strengths and potential pitfalls.

How we lead is a complex web that includes our personal style as well as our unique individual strengths and abilities.  By mapping those components onto the values and culture of the organization, team or group you have been charged with leading, your personal leadership style can begin to emerge.   Whether you are a new leader or a seasoned leader facing a new challenge, by consciously considering and creating your own authentic brand of leadership, you will find that your effectiveness and enjoyment will be enhanced.