Tensions In Leadership: Authenticity and Acceptance

We hear a lot about authenticity and leadership these days. I was reading an article by Donna Ladkin and Steven Taylor in The Leadership Quarterly last week about authenticity, and how we actually embody or enact our authenticity. That is, most of us can tell when someone is faking, acting or full of crap just by looking at their body language.  And, we look to our leaders to embody the identity of our group. 

Leadership involves the art of articulating a group’s identity, framing a narrative of who they are and how they have come to be, as well as where they are going.

Most interesting (at least to me), was that the followers’ needs for the leader to represent the identity of the group limited the leader’s actions, if he or she wanted to remain leader of the group. Thus, all leaders have to balance their need for authenticity with the followers’ group identity.

Yet to be a good leader, we must be perceived as authentic by our followers. So our role as a leader is to make “leaderly choices”, that is to choose the best way to express our authentic beliefs within the group identity.

For me, this is one of the most difficult balancing acts to achieve. I’m not good with constraint. Constraining my authentic self is a difficult challenge for me.  But by understanding why followers create constraints, I can at least begin to reconcile my authentic self with my followers’ need for a group identity.


4 replies »

  1. Good blog post Colleen. If a leader drifts too far from their followers’ identity then there is a good chance the leader will lose his or her constituency. A leader without followers likely isn’t a leader… unless the direction they choose begins to be recognized as the right way to go.

  2. I think that’s the point of leadership – the constraint is necessary so that choices have to be made, for others and self, using judgment and tacit knowledge. Accepting constraint is the price of group membership. Excelling within it is the price of leadership.

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