Harnessing Authentic Leadership
(l to r) Dr. Dana Borchert, CMA Vice President, Susan Gerard, Correspondant and Dr. Jami Wolfe, CMA Senior Vice President with a background in “industrial organizational psychology,” a.k.a. business psychologist.
Genuine is effective
Dr. Dana Borchert:
There’s been a significant amount of research on leadership, and specifically about if there is a specific style or type of leadership that’s best. When you really look at the research, there is not conclusive evidence that there is one right or universal profile. What’s effective is being genuine.
More specifically, when we think about great leaders—maybe Martin Luther King or Abraham Lincoln or maybe even Mother Teresa—they all had their own unique style. But they also had something in common. They were true to themselves.
So a question I often get is, “But I learned a lot from other great leaders throughout my career or my journey.” And yes. We absolutely can learn from others. But we would look pretty silly if we were trying to replicate them. So authentic leadership is really about living out your own voice and style.
Dr. Jami Wolfe:
Authentic leadership isn’t about having just one style. It’s about knowing yourself well enough, your values, your strengths, your mission, to be able to adapt that style to the team that you’re working with or to the situation at hand to be successful.
So the great leaders are those individuals who are able to marry up their authentic style with the needs of the team in the situation. The more that a leader can be authentic, meaning know themselves and live that out in a transparent way, the more then it is clear to those around them. Being clear helps those following the leader understand “What does this leader expect of me?” “What are the social norms of this particular work group that we are in?” “What can I expect of this leader.” And so I can adjust accordingly. So it just creates a lot more transparency and clarity of expectations–and trust.
Dr. Dana Borchert:
A key tool in becoming an authentic leader is self-awareness. At CMA we’ve really developed a robust assessment process used by hundreds of clients that provides individuals with feedback from a variety of sources. Things like what are my greatest motivators or my personality. Even things like, “how do I go about approaching problems and how do I lead and manage others?”
By really understanding some of these core components, it creates a profile for an individual to know their strengths, but also opportunities to grow. In addition to that, we use a 360-degree process which allows leaders to get input and feedback from a variety of stakeholders–direct reports, peers and even their superiors. And often times we find that this process can be one of the most powerful developmental experiences someone can have, because it gives them great insight to who they really are.
IT’S AN EVOLUTION
Dr. Jami Wolfe:
Living as an authentic leader really is an evolution and a process. It’s not a one-time event. “I’m authentic. Here I go.” That authenticity is likely to evolve over the span of a career and even a lifetime.
So while we may have certain events in place like the assessment process that we use, we also have a program called the leadership’s signature, which really explores individual’s leadership styles even more in depth. It goes beyond just assessing your values and the life experiences that have shaped you. It takes all of that information and boils it down into a few key statements so you can more easily reflect on it. That can really help guide your decisions and actions going forward.
This kind of self assessment isn’t something you would do just one time and you’re done. It’s something you really do want to revisit. I would say at least once a year. We recommend it in early January. You know its a great fresh start many times for all of us. “How am I living this out? Has it evolved for me? What do I want to do for the next year?”
Just stay true to yourself and keep growing.
CMA believes that people make or break a business at CMA. You know oftentimes when you think about what makes a business successful you’ll hear financial metrics or competitive strategy or unbreakable client relationships. Well none of those things develop themselves in a vacuum. Those come about because of the people that you have working in the business and working on the business. So what we do at CMA is: we help those individuals be the best that they can be for the organization; we help the organization understand its marketplace and align that strategy products services get the folks inside structured and aligned with that strategy; and then help them build the talent the competencies and the engagement that they need to make all of those great other metrics come to fruition.