Becoming an Authentic & Empowering Leader

A great leader is invested in growing, developing, and reaching her full potential.  Authentic leaders transform themselves and others, while inauthentic leaders correspond with others on a transactional level.  They manage, yet often fail to build teams, manage effectively, influence, and empower because they fail to inspire others and/or invite their trust.   

No one reaches a state of authenticity and then completes that goal in one life span.  Authenticity requires constant reflection, practice, and work. Rather than celebrating every win, the authentic leader acknowledges and appreciates success, and then gathers feedback and looks for ways to be even more effective and more impactful; first and foremost, “was I present, engaged, in touch with my feelings and in good faith with myself?”  Good faith implies that the leader’s actions and words were in sync.  If we profess to live by certain values and levels of integrity and our actions fail to support it, we are inauthentic and living with bad faith.  

The authentic leader seeks to understand the need behind the behaviors of those on her team and then encourage and empower them to be their best selves and to reach their full potentials.  These leaders also self-reflect to understand what their own behavior may be inviting from others – Attention? Rebellion?  Revenge?  Shut down?  Yes, the authentic leader knows that shifting her own behavior invites cooperation whereby punishing others invites shut down, rebellion and revenge.

An authentic leader wants more for herself and more from herself.  An authentic leader wants more for you and more from you. 

An authentic leader is self-aware and reflective. As a leader, it is important to know what your personality tendency is under stress.  Do you become superior or controlling?  Or do you want to please others or run away, seek comfort, and avoid the unpleasant issues.    You may ask yourself these questions and know the answer, but do you know what that invites from others and the huge impact it has on those you lead and the organization they serve?  If you become superior, you invite shutdown and fear.  If you become controlling, you invite rebellion.  If you are a pleaser, you invite frustration as your boundaries and limits are unclear.  If you seek comfort, you invite a lack of trust and respect as you disappear or lack follow through when people need you most.  Now…look at what you might be inviting when you are stressed and imagine the impact on your school or organization.  The good thing is, there are wonderful assets to each of these “go to’s,” and liabilities that need to be acknowledged.  Being honest with your team shows them your vulnerable side, which also makes you human and a respected member of your team.  Get people on your leadership who have strengths that you do not have so there is balance. Study those people, and practice being more open, alive, present, and engaged, no matter the tone of a situation.  Work on becoming authentic.

All behavior, according to Alfred Adler, is purposive.

What is the individual’s behavior telling you?  If you are feeling annoyed and irritated, your constituent is looking for attention.  Rather than reacting and giving in to the negative attention seeking, respond by seeking out that individual when he is not annoying and irritating you and give him some genuine attention. Also notable: this may very well be the person who seeks acknowledgement and approval when you move into superiority.  The argumentative constituent needs choice and more autonomy and is reacting to your controlling nature.   The bully or troublemaker is hurt and feels ignored or undervalued.  The under performer does not feel capable and finds you unapproachable.  Adjust how you interact with these people, now knowing the purpose behind their behaviors.  When they do “misbehave,” ask yourself what you are inviting and what they need. 

Empower your team. Teach your staff to understand each other.  Who are the power-hungry rebels?  The righteous?  The pleasers?  The comfort seekers?  Know how to leverage their strengths.  Superior people have great visions that controlling people and organize and execute while leaning on the hard- working pleasers.  The comforters attend to the needs of the organization’s morale.  This is a way to access and pull from everyone’s value.  Do not, however, allow their liabilities to be enabled.  Righteous and controlling folks tend to persecute others when they are unsettled.  They are really seeing themselves as victims and victimizing their targets.  Listen, but do not join their crusade or agree with them.  Instead, ask them questions which lead them to their own solution to the matter at hand.  Pleasers and comfort seekers tend to rescue victims and persecute the persecutors, who may also see themselves as victims.   It is all a dysfunctional drama triangle.  Stephen Karpman developed the model – read more here:   

To break these dysfunctional patterns, all staff should be committed to an “I’m O.K., you’re O.K. “approach.  No one needs to be saved and no one needs to be rescued.  We need to hold ourselves and one another accountable.  Eric Berne writes about this:  A great book for study for staff- to be reviewed regularly and practiced.  This also improves staff understanding of parent behaviors, and student behaviors. 

During staff meetings, discuss these topics so we are always become more aware and more authentic.  Take time at the beginning of each meeting to compliment and appreciate one another.  Bring up challenges one at a time and allow time to role play and brainstorm solutions – become a solution-oriented team where everyone’s value is recognized and honored and were everyone is expected to continue on a journey of reaching their full potential and becoming authentic.  

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