Nov 01 2020| Leadership

Setting the Standards that Define Authentic Leadership

The Five Qualities of Authentic Leaders

by Phil Eyre Founder

October witnessed a paradigm shift in Guernsey’s political history when 38 new Deputies attended the first meeting of the new political term. 

They have taken office, elected, for the first time, from an island-wide pool of candidates rather than a parish delegation.

During the canvassing period, Guernsey’s IoD members were surveyed on the qualities they considered as most desirable for candidates. The most consistently used adjectives were:

 

  • Decisive
  • Collaborative
  • Efficient
  • Intelligent
  • Honest

These sought-after standards point to an enduring truth: authenticity is a critical requirement for leaders, regardless of the organisation - or island - that they are leading.

 

  1. Decisive

  • Authentic leaders make high-conviction decisions and clearly understand what matters most to the people and the organisations that they lead.
  • They are motivated by a compelling vision for a better future and guided by firm personal values on which they make strong decisions.
  • They do not flip-flop in direction and maintain an openness to feedback in order to improve on the finer elements of the choice. This, in turn, creates consistency, a fundamental factor in building trustworthiness.

 

  1. Collaborative

‘Collaboration’ has become a management buzzword in recent years, denoting the willingness and ability of leaders to cooperate and work together rather than compete against each other.

In the island’s history, collaboration evokes a less positive notion, that of colluding or working with the enemy. I think that this idea carries more truth than we would care to admit. Too often, we discover that leaders view colleagues more like the enemy than co-workers, a problem not only reserved for politics.

 

  • Authentic leaders pursue healthy cooperation, seeking to draw from diverse experiences and perspectives rather than asserting their own narrow viewpoint.
  • They actively build relationships based on a genuine, rather than perceived, interest in others. They listen to learn rather than respond or defend and they offer their ideas and resources rather than ‘protecting their own’.
  • They ask for support when they need it, not viewing that as a weakness but knowing that it’s better to seek help than to fail.

When was the last time you sought out and truly listened, with an open mind, to someone with different interests or perspectives from your own?  

 

  1. Honest

Honesty, trust and authenticity all go hand in hand and it’s impossible to fully trust someone who isn’t honest.

Dishonesty comes in many different guises. There are outright lies - deliberate untruths declared boldly - that few leaders (regrettably not all) would defend. There are more subtle ways in which truth is ‘spun’.

Some can be economical with the truth, perhaps providing the correct technical responses but deliberately painting a biased picture or one without the proper context. Creatively accounting for expenses, with explanatory notes buried deep in a set of accounts, might be another example.

Then there are the daily opportunities for honesty, examples include:

  • When a colleague is asked to leave, what’s the story presented to the business?
  • When a team member is held back from promotion, are the real reasons made clear to them?
  • When a mistake is made or targets are missed, is this blamed on external factors (coronavirus is the current favourite) or is the focus closer to home?

Authentic leaders are honest in all areas; they have no reason to present anything other than the truth - they are genuine and not fake.

 

  1. Efficient

In a world that, in response to Covid-19, has shifted from an intense ‘just in time’ approach towards ‘just in case’ planning, it’s interesting to observe a desire for government to be more efficient.

Good leadership is observed in the effective allocation of resources, making decisions actively about where to invest for future growth or risk mitigation, what to hold ‘in stock’ and what to dispose of. 

Cutting too much will compromise the ability to deliver crucial services; not cutting enough will build up debt and stress that will weigh heavily on future prospects.

In any system (think about your home), organisation (your business) or government, this requires effective negotiating skills combined with the willingness and ability to compromise when needed for the benefit of the whole.

In theory, this is a key part of what it takes to be in government, laying down individual agendas when needed and acknowledging in some situations that scarce resources – time, money, people - would be better deployed elsewhere.

When combined with a commitment to implementing decisions without delay, efficiencies can be achieved both in the short term (savings) and long term (investment).

 

  1. Intelligent

Authentic, trustworthy leaders do not rely solely on passion or belief when leading their people and organisations.

They care just as much about feasibility, seeking credible information from a variety of perspectives that enables a proper consideration of the risk and rewards to be taken. This depth of intelligence builds confidence in their judgement.

The most effective leadership teams do their homework properly, asking the difficult questions and pursuing perceived inconsistencies rather than accepting responses at face value.

It surprises me that some leaders still make major decisions, acquisitions for example, without performing proper due diligence. The numbers might work on paper, but have insightful questions been asked of suppliers, customers, key workers, creditors or landlords?

Whether in public service, the third-sector or a commercial setting, it is in honest, collaborative decision-making, based on mutual respect and sound judgement, that effective leadership resides.

To find out more of my leadership insights, you can find my leadership series in the last 10 months of Business Brief magazine.

About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has significant expertise in sophisticated psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company, Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Since launching Leaders in 2017, Phil has worked with many senior executives and boards primarily in the Channel Islands and City of London. He regularly writes for a variety of business publications and is often invited to speak at events for institutions such as the IoD and the British Army. Phil works closely with clients on focussed projects and long-term retainers to raise leadership standards. He is a popular and inspiring educator and coach who, with the insights gained from psychometrics, is able to accurately detect the strengths and weaknesses in leadership teams and boards. Phil has served on the boards of various charities, ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and is accredited in various motivation and behavioural techniques.

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