Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences
New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by Donna Ladkin and Chellie Spiller
Chapter 24: Viewpoint: an authentic jerk. Authentic leadership can be bad leadership
Most people can agree that authenticity is of great value. We’d certainly rather be – or follow – a leader who is ‘for real’ than one who is faking it. Acting in a way that feels truthful, candid and connected to who you really are is important and is a leadership quality worth aspiring to. On the other hand, being your true self and saying what you think can be highly problematic if the real you is kind of a jerk. In my corporate coaching practice I’ve observed that placing value on being authentic can often become an excuse for bad behavior among executives. Human nature can be a huge roadblock in running a truly successful business, and I’ve found that the dynamics of personality and emotions can prevent a company that is otherwise great from flourishing and can kill a start-up outright. It’s important to realize that what constitutes your personality is not just the good stuff – your values, aspirations, dreams and successes, the qualities others love most about you. For many people, what comes just as naturally can be those aspects that are very negative and detrimental to a business. When you are overly critical, non-communicative, crass, judgmental or rigid, you are probably really being ‘yourself’, but you are not at your best; you are just using honesty as a cop-out and hurting your business in the process. In fact, I have found it is often these most ‘authentic’ parts of a leader that need the most management.
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