Making Authentic Leadership Work

In the Master Class on Leadership, I teach how to make authentic leadership work. I try to live my leadership from a place of vulnerability and authenticity. Here is how I work hard to try and make that happen.

There are four elements to being authentic in leadership.

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Transparency in Relationships
  3. Fair Minded Consideration
  4. Positive Moral Foundation

Self awareness is trying to understand what your strengths are, without boastfulness. It means you appreciate the talents, wisdom and knowledge that you have coupled with your experience. It also means you know your weaknesses intimately, but do not wallow in self-loathing about them. Weaknesses are an opportunity to figure out how to compliment your skill set with that of others. The last part is perhaps the one that is toughest to learn – how you can and will respond to emotional stimuli. If I am truly self-aware I know what the best possible response to news of all types can and should be, and I diligently and thoughtfully practice that response. As someone with deficits in the whole feelings department, that has been tough for me to really figure out personally, and I have offended people I wish that I hadn’t – and didn’t mean to.

Transparency in relationships is when the leader is open with their own thoughts, values and beliefs not because they expect everyone to fall in line with that and assume the perspective of the leader in those traits, but so that they deepen their understanding and awareness of where the leader is coming from. Transparency is not an exercise in evangelization. But let us be clear, that being transparent opens up a new type of vulnerability that many leaders struggle with when it comes to issues like homelessness that are often moralized. How a leader really feels about homelessness is new territory for a lot of Executive Directors and Presidents of homeless serving organizations.

Fair minded consideration is about seeking out alternative viewpoints than what we might say are the leader’s own natural conclusions. And in so doing, the leader opens up to considering other ways of doing things. When and how are leaders in your community malleable? When have they proven capable of changing direction based upon the opinion of others? Are there any instances when they openly admit that a different approach than their own holds more merit than what they were trying to achieve?

Positive moral foundation is a call to be ethical and distinguish that which can be called “right” and “wrong” from an ethical perspective in the service we do and the decisions we make. When was the last time you and your colleagues or community had a conversation about the ethics of ending homelessness? I am guessing you have been so busy doing the work you have not got around to that in a while (or ever). Probably the best time to do it is sooner rather than later. Maybe why you do this work is completely different than why they do this work – yet you thought you were on the same page.

About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.


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