Development as an Authentic Leader
I recognize my true self in my feelings and the emotion I bring to my integrated self. When most authentic, I am operating collaboratively with colleagues and not having to dictate but motivate. Seeing much of my father’s influence, I tend to be agreeable and pleasant. Interestingly, while that is my “natural habitat,” those that have worked with me describe me as intense and sometimes intimidating. Because I value transparency, I recognize when I’ve lost authenticity when overly filtering my actions or communications. It creates palpable stress when I cannot be transparent, collaborative, and candid.
In 2015, I left a high-paying job after turning the company around. Eventually, I became the CFO of a troubled small private university because there was a misalignment between my authentic self and the role I was being asked to play post-it around. While that resulted in a 50% cut in pay, the ability to help save a 125-year-old Benedictine university brought far more joy than I would have experienced cashing big paychecks. That price was one worth paying. I also learned from the prior experience when it was time to transition to the next turn-around instead of sacrificing my authenticity to conformity as the university returned to health.
Looking forward, the professional alignment of turn-around work is a good fit for my authentic approach valuing transparency, honesty, and collaboration. The situation is generally well known to the participants, and the ability to provide a vision of what success looks like and collaborate on the solutions is a benefit that sometimes is missing in more traditional management and leadership roles – where opacity and confidentiality are more valued. The most significant step to take is to continue to put myself in situations where these values are paramount. Because my life is very integrated, a misalignment of the environment will simultaneously result in inauthentic behavior in most aspects of my life.
My authentic approach to leadership, formed through two strong leadership parents and early leadership experience, is underpinned by transparency, honesty, and collaboration. The ability to make a difference in an organization or situation and be recognized for it is critical to my intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. For better or worse, my “work” life and my “personal” life are primarily integrated, and I struggle with compartmentalization. That makes being my most authentic self critically important, as I can’t “escape” to one segment of my life to rest and recover from inauthentic flexing. When I lead in a turnaround, I can lean heavily on these traits and approach decision-making and leadership authentically. I continued to be called on and called to these situations. When the circumstances are operating in a steady state, with more political elements and silos, my experience is less satisfying. I experience significant stress and dissonance and experience a need for change to an environment more conducive to my authentic style.
“Quotes” (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2018, from GeneralPatton.com, CMG Worldwide,
Watts, L. (2018, September 22). Authentic leadership ppt 5 rev.pptx [PowerPoint].
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