Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Authentic Leadership

On Saturday November 21, The Australian newspaper ran an article by General (rtd) Peter Cosgrove entitled "Leaders know dream teams have an ethos". In this Cosgrove mentioned leaders who have had 'falls from grace' and stated: 'In the main the issues behind these falls could be grouped under a lack of competence, a lack of support from those they sought to lead and a lack or failure of integrity'.

During the early 1990's I conducted extensive research on leadership in the Asia-Pacific region (see The Challenge of the Diamond and/or Leaders: diamonds or cubic zirconia) and found that integrity featured as one of the absolute key requirements for effective leadership. In my books I made the point that one of the major issues we all have with so-called "leaders" is a disconnect between what they say and what they do - ie a failure to "walk the talk" is generally seen as a lack of integrity. All too often we find one standard being espoused for followers and another standard being used by leaders.

What concerns me today is an apparent lack of integrity in many quarters. There are myriad everyday small examples, but here are a few major ones drawn from various media reports:
  • A leader of a major investment bank, in justifying his salary and bonuses despite the gfc, claims that he is "doing God's s work".
  • World leaders claim to believe in democracy yet refuse to accept or negotiate with regimes that are acknowledged to have been democratically elected because the election results are different from what was predicted or hoped - and then go on to demonise the elected parties when they object!
  • Leaders claim to believe in the sanctity of human life yet justify the deaths of civilians as 'collateral damage' in wars they have initiated.
  • Leaders decry the War Crimes committed in places like Bosnia and correctly argue that the perpetrators deserve to be tried in appropriate Courts and, if found guilty, should receive appropriate penalties yet refuse either to investigate possible War Crimes committed by their own personnel or else argue that offences such as torture are simply 'enhanced interrogation techniques' and that they are therefore exempt.

A few years ago I was coaching a leader aged in the mid 40's. As we worked through some issues, there was a deep pause, and then my coachee made the statement: "I've just realised that I've never been truly authentic in my life. I have always done what was expected of me by other people. No wonder people are saying that I lack integrity!"

Today we need authentic leaders - leaders who are absolutely true to themselves and the people they serve. Cosgrove is right: authentic leadership requires integrity.

More information about Douglas Long and how I may be able to help you at http://www.dglong.com/

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