Life & Work

Discover and embrace your authentic self before taking up leadership mantle


Before you can become an authentic leader, you have to know who you are. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

"Before you can become an authentic leader, you have to know who you are. That’s your true north: your most deeply held beliefs, your values, the principles you lead by, and what inspires you," Bill George, a Harvard University professor, once said.

What is your true north? Do you know your true north? Should you know your true north? Have you found your purpose? What drives you to greatness? Have you noticed the failing and succeeding organisations around you? Have you taken note of failing and excelling leaders in various spheres of life?

The concept of one’s true north is a significant one in the realm of personal excellence more so in developing authentic and purposeful leadership. Highly developed leaders are people who have found their purpose, values and belief system.

Let us look at the true north as a compass. It is a set of essential truths or unwavering values that someone has in the management of their affairs and those of the organisation they are working in. What are the marks of an organisation that has leaders who are devoid of their true north?

The symptoms of the malaise may include and not limited to inconsistent decision-making, a lack of transparency, frequent changes in direction, poor employee morale and motivation, high turnover rates, focus on short-term gains, ineffective communication, resistance to change, a lack of progressive employee development, ethical lapses, crisis mismanagement or firefighting, focus on individual achievements, opaque organisational values, hostility to feedback and substandard innovation and creativity rates.

Failing or stagnant organisation show several of those marks. When the signs are too many the organisation and its leaders fail.

What is the checklist for leaders who use their true north to drive for productivity, sustainability and profitability?

How then do we develop our true north to avoid such miserable and deplorable signs? Leaders with true north are authentic, own clarity of purpose, are consistent in their actions and beliefs, exhibit transparency in their dealings, have large amounts of emotional intelligence, have an unflappable moral compass, have deep grit, are full of inspiration and enthusiasm, adopt a collaborative approach to work, they possess futuristic visions, are very agile and adaptable to emergent issues, use servant leadership styles, are continuously adding new and valuable pieces of knowledge, have embraced accountability, have deep doses of courage and confidence, use to feedback for growth, exude people-centric leadership, there is an adherence to ethics and they inspire trust to fellow teammates.

How do we acquire and internalise the concept of our true north? A leader who has discovered their true north inspires others to be better and be more. As John Quincy Adams has said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Leadership has been defined countlessly as an influence. For one to influence colleagues one must have some ways to inspire and empower others through their words and actions. Having a true north is very transformational as opposed to being transactional.

The ability to have gratitude is another surefire foundation of great leaders. It is important to have a supermarket of gratitude. Transformational leaders never fail to appreciate others for their great work.

Having a true north is an asset and lacking it is a liability of gargantuan proportions.

Great leaders share the glory with others. Authentic leaders know how to look at the bright side of things because it spurs growth. That is how they are driven forward.

Those who possess lots of amounts of true north are competent enough to drive and embrace transformation. As the saying goes change is the most permanent phenomenon in life. So, knowing how to shepherd change is a quality one must possess to qualify for true north excellence.

The Balanced Score Card champion Ken Blanchard has opined that “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”.

This means that phenomenal leaders welcome feedback to improve, innovate and create new products and services.

Authentic leaders learn from various sources. This can be from internal and external resources. Continuous knowledge addition is one of the hallmarks of leadership excellence.

To sail very well as an authentic leader, it is utterly significant to have a vision statement. What does a vision accomplish? The fruits of having a solid vision include guidance and direction, inspiration and motivation, alignment of goals, clarity for team members, strategic decision-making, cultural identity, employee engagement, attracting and retaining talent, measuring progress, adaptability and resilience, customer and stakeholder communication, innovation and creativity, long-term planning and it also furnishes one with a competitive advantage.

Magoma is an Award-Winning HR, Trainer and conference speaker, [email protected]