Operations director Focus7 International
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Why all politicians should aspire to be 'authentic' leaders

8th May 2015
Operations director Focus7 International
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What makes a really authentic leader? Looking at the main political parties running up to the General Election, it is a question we can measure all the party leaders against. Leona Barr Jones has spent many years training future leaders both in the public and private sectors. Here, she identifies the key traits of authentic leadership.

Authentic leadership is based around the issue of integrity – a key ingredient for any leader – especially a political one.

According to the theory of authentic leadership, to be a truly great leader you must demonstrate authenticity and trustworthiness. It is no good being one person in the workplace and a completely different person outside of the workplace. The same applies to politicians. Your potential supporters will know if you are not being true to your beliefs. Your personality will be inconsistent and your employees or supporters will find it hard to trust you. 

Sometimes leaders have to take risks and if you live by a particular set of values, you may have to take a risk to be true to those values. All great entrepreneurs are risk takers and have strong leadership skills and strong brands. For example, Richard Branson and Jo Malone both have strong brand values based around their own personalities. Both Branson and Malone are clear about their leadership role within their chosen business fields and not swayed by the opinions of others. They are risk takers and by not playing safe they have often made the biggest difference to their businesses. Working for leaders such as these two, creates a loyal workforce or band of support that buys into their leader’s vision. So how can you make sure you are an authentic leader and what traits do you need to nurture?

Authentic leaders do what they say they are going to do

If you look at great authentic leaders, they put the mission and the goals of the organisation ahead of their own quest for power, money or ego. They are completely consistent, results driven and always have an end goal in mind.

They are self-aware and genuine

Authentic leaders are well aware of their strengths and also their limitations. They show their real selves to their followers and do not act one way in private and another in public. They are happy to admit to their mistakes and they don’t hide them out of fear of looking weak.

Authentic leaders show their emotions

Because of this, they are able to connect with their employees. Because of this they share their thoughts and feelings with the people around them. They are very direct and this is often critical to successful outcomes. By contrast, directness without empathy is cruel.

Authentic leaders are risk takers

They challenge themselves constantly and are not afraid to take risks to achieve their goals. They will step outside their comfort zone to get results.

They leave a legacy

Authentic leaders build a legacy by adding value to everyone that they deal with and leaving the world a better place in the process.

So - how do the party leaders measure up?  Would you trust any of them to run the country or any large organisation for that matter based on the traits I’ve set out?  What do you think?

Leona Barr Jones is MD of change management and business growth consultancy Barr Jones Associates. If you want to find out more about leadership, contact Leona at [email protected]

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