Leadership is perhaps one of the most complex psychological concepts to define. What are the factors that cause one person to step up and make things happen, binding others into a team and so achieving more with a team than the sum of the parts. What characteristics draw people together to support one from the group and raise that one to lead the others.
One of the more critical factors for a leader is to be authentic. Authentic to who you are. You must be the sort of leader that you are, not a mimic of others. Churchill was a certain type of person, true to himself and to his character. The same could be said of many of the great leaders.
In The Art of Authenticity: Tools to Become an Authentic Leader and Your Best Self, Karissa Thacker, a psychologist and coach, explores some of the insights she has gained into the mind of leaders and captures them in a set of tools and ‘workouts’ so you can develop and improve your own leadership skills.
In a very readable and engaging book, Thacker has explored the characteristics and behaviours of some of the great leaders and highlights authenticity as common to all. She describes the essence of authenticity as being fully yourself. That includes both your strengths and weaknesses, your vulnerabilities and power. This requires a great deal of personal moral courage as leaders are often called upon to make demanding ethical decisions. The recent passing of Muhammad Ali offers a poignant reminder of moral courage. As a young boxer and, at the boxing champion of the World, he was stripped of his title because he refused to fight in the Vietnam war. His authentic self told him ‘I got no beef with those Vietcong’ and he made a moral stand. Years later we can see this as great leadership and debatably the correct ethical decision.
And just as Ali worked to stay in shape physically, a leader’s decision making and moral courage is strengthened and honed every day by practise and exposure to challenge. In the Art of Authenticity, Thacker has created a workbook to help leaders develop their ethical decision making and authentic leadership.
Covering important leadership and team concepts such as contribution, truthfulness, loyalty and behaviour when your values are challenged, Thacker discusses some difficult issues that leaders often face. In particular leadership is about building relationships and then leveraging those relationships to achieve your objectives. In some cases your values and relationships are challenged with conflicting options. The techniques and case studies discussed will explore many of these potential conflicts and give options to find a way to reconcile these conflicts, often with an innovative and creative solutions.
As a coach and leader I have started using the book to develop my own skills and those of my team. The workouts at the end of each chapter offer a selection of exercises that can be used alone or in a group to consider a variety of leadership issues and develop your own approach. Having members of your team discuss and have an understanding of their own values is important in them developing their own authentic leadership.
One of the better books on leadership I have read recently, The Art of Authenticity offers insight and practical tools to develop your personal leadership and the leadership of your team. Highly relevant to the modern business context, Thacker has produced a very useful text for the modern leader and leadership coach.
Dare to Aspire