What our best leaders think about today is authenticity. Not how to express it, but how to reclaim it and nurture it to fill out their own skin. Authenticity carries a charisma all its own, not swashbuckling, but solid, and it wears well with the flow of unpredictable events.
During the past generation, executives stopped believing that order and hierarchy were the by-words for managing their organizations well. Instead of relying on such stability, they moved to its opposite. They concluded that certainty of success lay in understanding chaos theory and mandating transformation in their organizations. This new paradigm was foreshadowed by the publication in 1980 of Peter Drucker's Managing in Turbulent Times.
See the Continuum
Where are you on this continuum? There is plenty of value at both extremes, but you'll multiply your value and leverage tenfold when you plant your feet on the ground between them. Work life is certainly not subject to complete control, but neither is it chaos. It's flow. Flow is natural and where you'll find your authenticity. That's where you can benefit from what the late Arnold Beisser called the paradoxical theory of change: "Change occurs when we become who are, not when we try to become who we're not." This kind of change is flow and available to individuals, their organizations and all other involvements where they make their way.
Control. The Inhibitor
Today's model isn't the leader who so much makes things happen, as the one who lets them happen. Leaders who inspire us are those who shed their attachments to old habits and outworn "convictions." Such attachments include shallow slogans, biases, blaming others, complaints of circumstance, chasing fads, denying failure, faith in consensus, fake roles, false goals, over-reliance on strategic planning and the pretense of vision as clairvoyance rather than clarifying where we are and where we’re headed. Today's leader courageously releases his most addictive attachment: the illusion of control. Control is the tonic misguided executives seek at both extremes. On the other hand, authenticity blossoms in the leader who completes that longest journey from the rational mind to the intuitive heart and soul, and then comes halfway back.
Intuition, the Spark
Today's most effective leaders are candid with themselves and seek power over the person they see in the mirror. That's the hardest power of all to achieve. When they have that kind of power, they don't need power over others. They won't delude themselves with willfulness but consent to the way things are and go from there. They're more prepared to see things unfold. This isn't passivity nor resignation, but a humbled, energized leadership bent on catching the drift of a Creative Universe that “wants beautiful things to happen."
This is leadership that grasps vision as knowing what is rather than mouthing good intentions, and seeks its appropriate place in an inclusive, emerging drama. Leaders like this listen to their inner voices and those of their associates as they deal with events and tasks. They are, in thought and deed, intuitive. Intuition cannot thrive in an environment that lacks authenticity. Many people unwittingly attempt this mismatch. When they do, they waste their time, and that of their associates, researching what doesn’t need to be measured.
Resilience, the Stabilizer
By virtue of their detachments, there's a letting go to such authentic leaders I’m citing here. They're known for resourcefulness born of resilience, and they treat failure--their own as well as others--as learning. They're the last to boast of perfection for themselves or expect it elsewhere. They're not hurriers or worriers. Because they feel partially, not wholly, responsible for outcomes, they share their burdens and don't force things. Yet they're marked by Destiny more than many self-declared heroes, and such Destiny weaves ties that bind.
These are people to whom we'll give our trust in the modern era's alluring and sometimes frightful transitions. We know they're worthy of it. We can see it in their eyes.
Needed Change in Style
For decades I’ve worked closely with CEOs and their top teams. I’ve read the manuals and written some of them. The supreme challenge for our organizations is not making better leaders of our people, but better people of our leaders. More than ever, I’m convinced that leaders who matter most in places of consequence are those who learned early how to master, more or less, the three tasks of life: (1) Work, (2) Love and (3) Friendship. Weaving their lives skillfully to maintain this kind of balance brings them along as legacy shapers and models. Poise matters. This is where they find it.