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Last year alone, more than 2,200 books on leadership were published and as long as business is around, we will continue to pick apart the underlying ingredients of true andexcellent leadership. The notion of authenticity goes all the way back to Shakespear’s Hamlet and the quote “To thine own self be true”. Highlighting the importance of authenticity in the realm of leadership I would like to invite you today to join me on a short journey exploring authentic leadership.

When we talk about excellent leaders most of us have in mind that these are individuals with great character strength, who can remain over longer periods of time within constant, valued qualities. Typical leaders’ attributes that come to our mind are drive, enthusiasm, motivation. But there is a tricky aspect of leadership: despite all these qualities and strengths that we are looking for in leaders, we also want them to be reflective and well aware of the situation, adjusting their actions accordingly. Thus the capacity to match and express core character strengths in a way that is optimal to different context is what is considered authentic leadership.

So why is this journey of relevance to you today? Well, authentic Leadership is conscious leadership and conscious leadership is most effective in tackling complex challenges as we face them today.

Authentic Leadership is not defined by a particular style but by the quality of consciousness and the level of reflective and integrative awareness. It is defined as a process that draws from both positive psychological capacities and a highly developed organizational context. It results in greater self-awareness and positive behaviours of leaders, fostering positive self-development.

Without awareness, leaders are less adaptable and swing towards one of the two positions: compliance or defiance. To describe a leader in a defiant position is like drawing the picture of a person unconsciously focused on his / her own agenda, with a controlling and decisive style. This person is accompanied by a fear of failure and ignores other’s needs. By contrast with a leader on the compliance-side we would have to describe a person, lacking spontaneity and having a fear of abandonment. This leader would be typically very eager to please others. In the middle, the authentic leader would consciously balance the needs of self and others, act adaptable and motivating.

Now one could say: well, I guess being authentic is the best spot, so tell me how to get there! But there is no simple rule, no methodology to follow, no plan A and optional plan B. Being an authentic leader means working on yourself first. If you’d asked me for elements of a good toolbox one could use, I would recommend the following:

  1. Identify the patterns of actions, cognitions and emotions for your compliant or defiant position
  2. Make the link to break the link – guiding yourself with the help of a coach back to previous relationships and situations where you reacted and felt similar and where the leadership reaction might have been formed.
  3. Mindfulness training as a way to increase the “being here and now” which in turn improves your reflective awareness

… and it all comes down – again – to the quote of good old Shakespear’s Hamlet: This above all: To thine own self be true!

Michaela Lindinger is the founder and CEO of brain in spa, a platform for performance and health in the digital industry, supporting innovative organizations and millennial talents with formats that fit a digital lifestyle. Find out more at braininspa.com.

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