Leadership : Enabling and Empowering Authentic Transformational Leaders

Malcolm Allan is the founder of Authentic Transformational Leadership, which he set up in May 2003 after a career as an urban designer, town planner, local government officer, and the chief executive of a number of economic development, business support and training organisations. He has been interested in and has practised authentic and transformational leadership for thirty years. He is currently developing the “Leading Partnerships for Public Purpose” for the Academy of Authentic Leadership and the “Leading Place Brand Partnerships” programme for Placebrands Limited

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Elizabeth Harrison is a qualified psychologist, counsellor and coach with a track record of helping individuals to achieve profound and lasting changes in their working and personal lives.  She has in-depth experience of people management and personal development, from extensive consultancy, training, operational and executive level responsibilities as an Occupational Psychologist within the SHL Group, and from “hands-on” HR experience in Shell and United Biscuits.

She is Founder of Vision Works, a company which provides skilful and effective transformational coaching for individuals, teams and organizations.

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Enabling and Empowering Authentic Transformational Leaders, or …“How to Achieve All That You Ever Meant to in Your Life!”

What is authentic transformational leadership

Leadership is one of the most studied and contested fields of human endeavour. Each year sees the publication of many hundreds of new books, workbooks, CD’s and online learning materials, largely aimed at the corporate world, but increasingly also at the public, community and charitable sectors. There is no shortage of resources for the individual, team or organisation wishing to better understand and practise effective leadership.

It is exciting to notice that within this plethora of material that a tiny, but we believe soon to be quickly growing, minority of writers are beginning to focus on the transformational ability of human beings to change their world for the better - for the many, not just for the few. We believe that this approach, which we term ‘authentic transformational leadership’, is the essential new leadership focus for a long-term sustainable future. It will be delivered by those courageous individuals who are ready to quest for, to find and to fully express their own unique “authentic self” first. By demonstrating absolute clarity about who they are personally and about what they wish to do, they will inspire others to do the same in turn. Authentic transformational leadership will become the ‘norm’ and we will all be in a position to work collectively and collaboratively to achieve the results of our highest – including global - dreams.

Why is it necessary for each of us to be clear in, and about our selves first? In our view, before we can lead others we need to be able to lead ourselves. To do so we really do need to know “who we are” - we need to know our “authentic self ”. By this we mean we need to truly understand what we stand for, our values, what we believe in, our view of right and wrong. It also means that we need to understand our personal purpose in life, what some have previously termed our “calling”. In addition, it requires us to decide what we are doing with our life, what we wish to achieve, what we want to change, what we want to leave behind as a legacy of benefit to our family, friends, those we work with or for, our organisations and our communities. If we are not clear about who we are and what we stand for and wish to do in life - how can we possibly lead others or an organisation of any size? We all know unhappy or disillusioned people who work for or lead organisations whose values they do not share, and people whose work does not fulfil them. Why do people, why do we, allow this to happen? If we were really true to ourselves we would not work for people and organisations whose purpose and values we do not share. If we were authentic leaders we would only work on activities that fulfilled our purpose. So, how can we become authentic and transformational as leaders and how, as leaders, can we enable and empower others to be such leaders? How can we recognise and practise authentic and transformational leadership?

Authentic transformational leadership is most simply described as a set of personal behaviours based on clearly understood and articulated beliefs. It is beyond the realm of the many forms of “leadership competencies” which many organisations now codify. It is also much more than the sets of “top management skills” claimed by many leadership courses as pre-requisite to successful leadership. All these approaches are indeed relevant but, we believe, will only deliver the farthest-possible-reaching of positive effects when each leader is living from the strong foundation of authentic ‘self-knowing’ and inner belief in his/her ability to be truly ‘transformational’.

Authentic transformational leadership is something you believe in, something you exude through example, something you naturally role model to others by being completely engaged with a set of genuine personal principles. It is clear to others around you in what you say [your beliefs] and what you do [your behaviour] that you wholly own these values.

Authentic transformational leaders are “mentally healthy”, which - according to Freud - means in part that you are able to build and maintain quality relationships. And, as Adrian Gilpin [of the Institute of Human Development] has noted, the most successful of leaders spend the majority of their time developing and nurturing effective relationships. Also, as a fully developed authentic and transformational leader, you can enjoy true human “connectedness”, involving both love (in its broadest sense) and working with and through others to achieve your and their purpose.

Authentic transformational leaders are empowering (of themselves as well as others) and are able to truly learn from experience and to apply that learning in action. They are life-long learners and create operational cultures which encourage and support learning.

As an authentic transformational leader, you can express your full leadership potential by understanding yourself and others deeply, by being able to be all of who you are and by making use of your capabilities to help others to be all of who they are. As such, you will attract success and support from others. By being ‘real’ and wholly believable, you become inspirational. In short, you are radiating a unique authenticity.

How do you become an authentic transformational leader?

Everyone, in theory, can learn to become an authentic transformational leader (“Many are called but few are chosen”). In practice, it takes courage, trust, commitment and absolute dedication. This is not something that you achieve overnight or through participating in a leadership development programme, although that can provide you with direction and resources. In reality it takes time, a lot of time, and practice, lots of practice.

First, you must address the most urgent task of working internally, with yourself. You begin by learning to deepen your understanding of – and alignment with - a deep sense of personal purpose in your life until you find that, genuinely, you are adding true value to what you do and can retain a deep sense of self-ease and satisfaction even under great pressure. As you learn to develop, grow and change for the better internally you will gradually feel more ready to effectively work in a similar way externally. And those around you will notice and comment on the change in you.

Next, you will be ready to move on towards developing authenticity in and with your current colleagues, your team your board, or with whoever you are currently working. You will now be more easily attracting enhanced levels of recognition and others will have perceived how you appear to have naturally increased your contribution. You will be ready to begin to help others in your immediate remit to do the same. At the right time, and you will know if it is part of your personal purpose, you will be ready to move on towards helping on a bigger scale. You will be ready to help your company, your organisation, your establishment, your community, even your country and the world, if that is part of your purpose, to transform towards authentic ways of being. Your strategic input at this point will be heard much more clearly in these high profile situations because your own personal house is already in excellent order.

You become an authentic transformational leader as a result of following, and ultimately completing, a personal journey towards full authenticity. You will learn to fully express your individuality and your uniqueness, at the same time as learning from the uniqueness of others as role models and case studies. It is by becoming the fullest expression of who you are – more than just by developing competencies, building skills and doing the “right things” - that you become a truly authentic transformational leader. This is far better than modelling someone else’s leadership, however effective and inspirational it has been. Instead of becoming a pale reflection of one or more of your heroes, you become something much more convincing - the “Authentic You” - your own person - who you really are.

The benefits of developing as an authentic transformational leader

People we work with testify to dramatic improvements in their working lives as a result of authentic transformational leadership development, including the capability to:

- increase their influence at executive level

- increase their personal impact and effectiveness with their colleagues

- raise their team’s profile and its participation in building business vision and strategy

- create greater influence across a wider sphere in their lives

- build personal credibility and raise their relationship and communication skills

- connect fully with the reality of current business issues

- heighten others’ perceptions of their personal and business potential

Looking for role models?

People often ask us to identify good examples of authentic transformational leaders so that they might more easily understand what it looks like to be one. Some are looking to find out if their favourite business or political hero fits this description. Others are looking for someone to emulate. We never pick out one human being. What we do say is that the best way to identify an authentic transformational leader is to carefully observe their behaviour – the things they say and how they say them, the things they do and how they do them, the way they treat others around them - as it is a sure guide to their beliefs and values.

What you can observe in truly authentic and transformational people is that:

- s/he is on an “inner” or “authentic” leadership quest of self discovery and awakening of purpose and they are quite open about this and willing to discuss it with you.

- this personal journey inspires you and others by its passion, authenticity and courage beyond its business results

- s/he clearly pays absolute attention to all the signals from her/his surroundings, from you and other people and above all from her/himself
- s/he can pace and lead - s/he spends 90% of her/his time finding out and receiving information (“pacing”) and 10% of her/his time putting out or transmitting information (“leading”). They are what we term “active listeners”

Developing self-learning, belief and passion

During authentic transformational leadership development you will learn that your own beliefs and passions and the behaviour that results have a direct effect on everything and everyone around you.

By exercising great courage and determination to change throughout your personal journey, an authentic transformational leader “walks the talk” of their vision, living life with full authenticity from the “inside out”:

You will define a personal philosophy and vision… which informs your clear beliefs and values … which, in turn, direct your supportive thoughts … which, in their turn, result in congruent behaviour … leading naturally to ... the desired results in your life.
So the key requirement, after the decision to quest for personal truth and authenticity in order to become transformational, is to learn to explore your inner world and to understand yourself more deeply.

Once we truly understand our individual talents, beliefs, passions, values as well as our own compelling personal philosophy our purpose or our ‘calling’ and our vision for the future…. the results will follow naturally. So let’s get excavating and then building ….


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