Sometimes on the Authentic Leadership Programme we discuss whether a toxic leader who acts out in his or her’s own so-called “authentic” leadership style is an authentic leader. This argument has special validity for a leaders with sizeable followings.
Cutting to the chase can it really be authentic to be toxic, petty, vindictive, micro-managing, untrue etc?
Can it be leadership, nonetheless?
We see political leaders in the US bringing together followers of an ideology. Some of those leaders appear very thinned skinned, prone to name-calling, vindictive and divisive – putting groups of people based on nationality or religion against their followers.
Can this be authentic leadership? Surely not!
I think you have to say it is leadership – not the sort of leadership many people find helpful, but leadership nonetheless.
What about authentic leadership? No, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Authentic leaders have self awareness and examine their own strengths and weaknesses, acknowledging who they are to their followers.
Authentic leaders are transparent.
Authentic leaders have a strong ethical compass that guides them in decisions and life. Followers will know that ethical compass and it will be available for scrutiny. It will involve embracing diversity, not engaging in toxic or narcissistic behaviours such as bullying or name calling.
Authentic leaders build a following on making their organisation or whatever it is they lead better through cooperation, engagement and empowerment.
Finally, an authentic leader strives to be, and helps others, to achieve the authentic human condition. That condition is something build on trust, seeking the best in others, relying on facts, high levels of emotional intelligence (think “social awareness” or “self control”) and seeking happiness, freedom and contentment for all.
So check, when someone says about a leader,”they’re just being themselves”. That will never be an excuse for poor leadership.