I wrote earlier about the perspective that “leaders donʻt matter,” that for most mainstream leadership positions there are a set of leaders ready to fill a slot, with skills, qualities, values and experience to function perfectly well in the role. Itʻs a radical idea in a culture that generally imagines a leader to be a unique beacon of individual achievement.
Hereʻs another balloon to pop (there are so many!), this time about authenticity.
Authenticity isnʻt about the leader. Itʻs about the follower. Because if an authentic leader is a role model, demonstrating values-based behaviors in a consistent performance of self, then the most effective sustainable performance of authenticity is listening.
Yup, the most effective performance of a grounded, self-aware, articulate, authentic leader with a chance at a long-term leadership role is the confidence and clarity to actively and regularly listen to people. That kind of attention is what makes the difference between sustainable leadership and charismatic failure. Followers of whatever status respond with loyalty to a listening leader, even deciding to mirror their behavior and values, because they have a healthy relationship, and feel seen.
So, in essence, when an authentic leader makes room for others to shine (in leadership parlance, itʻs talked about as empowering a culture of authenticity) s/he shines, too. In fact, the authentic leader who asserts his or her own agenda through their authentic identity and forgets to listen burns out like a cheap bulb.
And thatʻs a good thing. Because authenticity is as authenticity does. On the ground, itʻs about being present. And listening is the leaderʻs best tool for authentic presence.