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The 5 Pillars of Authentic Leadership

Source | | Mark Bilton

It’s difficult to lead well, especially in a fast-paced environment. Leading change in a company in distress means many things have to happen quickly. That usually means culture is put on the back burner as a “nice to have.” As a serial CEO, I’ve led six companies through transformational change throughout 20 years, and I’ve found that authentic leadership—and the culture that results—is a multiplier of productivity and a driver of success.

The fast-paced, dynamic world of rapid change that used to be confined to distressed organizations is now everyone’s world. We are in a marketplace changing at digital speed. With so much disruption, new generations and a hyper-connected world where information is a commodity, the leadership paradigm has to shift. The industrial revolution model of command and control leadership is no longer effective.

To enable an organization to thrive today, leaders have to embrace an authentic leadership style. It promotes an engaged, flexible and innovative environment, one able to match the pace of change we now face. Here are my five pillars of authentic leadership.

1. Collaboration

You can’t do it yourself. Everything is moving too fast to have one smart person making all of the calls. Organizations need to be inherently agile with collaboration and communication in their very DNA.

Transparency builds trust; if you are connected to your team and genuinely interested in their participation and welfare, they will join you in your quest. The reason is simple: People own what they help create.

Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, they will say: We did it ourselves.” That, to me, is the true measure of effective collaboration.

2. Vision

American philosopher Eric Hoffer said, “The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.” Therein lies the balance. Vision and strategy can be built collaboratively, and authentic leaders can help define that reality. But then the leader must live the paradox of championing the future, and yet engage in the purposeful motivation and practical realities of the present.

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