Last Friday’s article looked at how effective leaders used the 3H Model to inspire superior performance in employees. Today’s article discusses the need for authentic leadership in organisations — and not just at senior levels.

“Authenticity” has been described as the unobstructed operation of one’s time, or “core” self, in one’s daily enterprise. For a manager, this means a sense of personal conviction about overall requirements, which is essential in helping team members develop a sense of shared purpose.

Authentic leadership involves personal conviction and the ability to identify strongly with an activity, and developing a shared purpose and a sense of authenticity in others.

This vital second element is often overlooked, and this significantly undermines the potential benefits.

The principles of authentic leadership can be contrasted with transformational leadership, which emphasises the use of charisma and a compelling vision to overcome “self-interest” in order to gain commitment to organisational goals.

However, this model has been criticised for being vague about the specific steps that contribute to increases in employees’ motivation and commitment. This point is particularly relevant when we consider the expectations of Generations X, Y and Z, with their greater focus on consultation and involvement in decision-making.

Success factors at work

Studies relating to authentic leadership clarify the essential elements in the process, making it a useful model for training managers. There are four success factors that support the authenticity associated with more effective managers and leaders.

These include self-awareness, balanced processing of information, relational authenticity, and authentic behaviour and action.

Authentic leadership involves demonstrating conviction and consistency, but also requires managing (and strengthening) role relationships. Increasingly, a leader needs to be aware of the key relationships affecting outcomes.

This network may involve dealing with the expectations and demands of both internal and external contacts, depending on the specific requirements of the manager’s role. 

Developing a more outward-looking approach and being receptive to feedback are clear attributes of managers who become successful leaders. Personal conviction is important, but this is linked to responsiveness to the views of others, and consistency in maintaining professional standards.

Managing change

In addition to being outward-looking and receptive to feedback, managers also need to consider how best to enhance systems and improve employee performance.

The drivers behind proposed changes may be competitive pressure, customer expectations or stakeholder demands. However, managers need capability in four key areas in order to respond effectively. These include:

•   Cognitive ability: the capacity to deal with complexity and make connections

•   People skills: conviction about needs and requirements, while developing staff capability

•   Change focus: tolerance of ambiguity and willingness to explore and develop opportunities

•   Results focus: delivery of outcomes, achieving personal impact and motivating others

In addition to setting clear direction and maintaining standards, managers need to do everything possible to help employees feel that they are making progress in their work, which is vital to motivation.

Activities must be meaningful, valued by other people, and contribute to a real sense of shared purpose. This is not an easy task, and any problems relating to employee attitudes, or a failure to achieve standards, must be addressed as soon as possible.

Training is often required to help managers understand how best to deal with operational problems, present a clear vision, and take a firm stand on key issues. Most importantly, they need to be aware of the steps required to build the motivation and commitment of people in their team.

Next week: The final article in this series looks more closely at management leadership skills and the new science of employee engagement profiling.

Article by David Sharpley, an international management consultant and chartered psychologist. He runs masterclass workshops on competency assessment, leadership development and employee engagement profiling, and provides online resources through Pario Innovations. For more information, e-mail david@pario-innovations.com