Individual Authentic Journey Report
Authentic leadership has gained momentum recently due the rising incidents of corporate indignity, management misconduct, and societal challenges facing corporate across the board. One of the key initiators of authentic leadership is the collapse of Enron and WorldCom which was associated with unethical management (George 2003, p. 303). Since this occurrence, the public lost the confidence they had with corporate leadership. They began demanding a new crop of leaders who would lead organizations with transparency and accountability. Authentic leadership extends beyond corporate success, public interests, and organizational barriers through honesty and integrity. Most organizations today need a new type of leadership that can transcend against the various organizational stressors in a smooth manner.
Authenticity is best defined by the Greek phrase, “know thy self” and “to thine own self be true” (Kernis 2003, p.205). Thus, authentic leadership entails knowing, accepting and remaining true to one’s self. Consequently, authentic leaders are those that are self aware of their values, beliefs and morals, and they act transparently in line with these morals and ethical values. George (2003, p. 102) defined authentic leadership as the ability to be in control of one’s thoughts, personal experiences, needs, preferences, emotions and beliefs under all circumstances. Simply, authentic leadership entails learning to express one’s thoughts and beliefs and act in congruence with them (George 2003).
Journey to Authenticity
Self Awareness and Values
According to Manning (2009, p. 89) self awareness is an authentic leadership component that entails having intrinsic trust and being aware of one’s personal characteristics, values, and beliefs. Self awareness also encompasses being in the capacity, to understand and accept the contradicting aspects of one’s personality. It also entails being aware of the roles that such contradictions have in one’s behavior. Self awareness is the act of fully understanding one’s personality and emotions through being self conscious of one’s strengths and weaknesses. The main component of self awareness can thus be reduced to having sufficient emotional intelligence (Manning 2009, p. 113).
As I was growing up, I realized it as necessary to know ones unique strengths, talents, values and strengths as the main step towards self awareness (Kernis 2003, 92). States self cognition begins when one becomes aware of their existence within the context in which they are operating. In the application of this hypothesis, I have been able to notice that there are differences that exist between all individuals. Each person has some basic unique talents, values, and beliefs that they can apply in the context they operate in to produce authenticity, a factor I encouraged in my team.
Honesty, respect, success, quality, self-confidence, and self determination are some of my main strengths that I applied towards authenticity. By applying these values, I have been able to lead my peers in throughout the team presentations. Kernis (2003, p. 98) states that self awareness is not an end point, but rather a means to an end whereby one continues to understand the self better. In the discharge of authority at various leadership levels, I expect to become more cognizant of my other personal strengths that will add to my authenticity stances. Authentic leaders have the unique ability of deriving meaning from the world and use it in leading and understanding themselves. In the complex nature of one’s self, authentic leaders are able to understand their weaknesses and strengths.
In the quest for self awareness, I have demonstrated ability to influence others behavior through my personal strengths. Self clarity and self certainty have been the main factors that are providing the influence I require in this task. In some cases, I felt that I was not motivating my team well, but I demonstrated excellent time management skills that enabled me to garner some influence and leadership in the team. Self views are equally valuable in identifying one’s self and this extends to understanding one’s social skills that distinguish one from others (Kernis 2003, p. 123).
This aspect is closely related to leader self awareness. One of the best realizations is that self awareness when not cultivated may wither. According to Walumba, et al. (2008), authentic behavior means acting in accordance to one’s beliefs and values. This is in contrast to behaving pretentiously in order to avoid punishments or attain rewards. However, leaders should exercise caution in their actions. Behaving in a free manner and perpetually expressing one’s true self is different from behaving authentically. The former is prone to reproach since most members of the society would deem it inappropriate and unethical. Authentic leaders need to learn to keep a healthy balance between expressing their true self and the environment in which they operate. It is of vital importance that the authentic leaders express maximum ability of understanding the consequences of their behavior (Walumba, et al. 2008, p 58).
Authentic behavior calls for setting of leader self regulations which guide the leader in exerting self control in their actions. The regulation involves setting new standards, assessing any discrepancies that exist between these standards and the actual anticipated outcomes, and finally identifying the appropriate actions that would address the noted discrepancies. This implies that self regulation is the basic process through which authentic leaders align themselves with their intended causes of action (Manning 2009 p. 123).
In the regulation process, I applied the theories of self determinism and unbiased balanced processing. The self-determinism theory contends that authenticity is attained through initiating a self driven regulatory process rather than an externally based regulatory process. In accordance to this theory, I established moral standards and ethical values that I upheld in my dispensation to authenticity. I vowed not to give in to urges of low self-esteem, peer pressure, and acts of indulgence that are likely to undermine my honesty virtues. Low self esteem undermines self confidence meaning that influencing peers would be impossible. In some instances, peers may exert pressures that are in contrary to one’s maxims. Having concrete standards was thus essential in ensuring that I remained anchored to my values even under threatening demand from team members.
Another theory based on the works of Kark, Shamir and Chen (2003), argues that authenticity is achieved through balanced processing, relational transparency, and authentic behaviors. Similarly, in my undertakings I ensure that I engrain the three sets of authenticity skills. Through acts honesty and respect, it is possible to transcend through biases, transparency, and ensuring balanced behaviors. Honesty makes it possible to narrate confidently what happened in what circumstances in an accountable and transparent manner. Kark, Shamir, and Chen (2003) argue that behavior regulation is effectively achieved when it is matched to the leader’s actual self. It needs to be possible to narrate how I remained true to myself even in different times of one’s operations. This ensures that the leader is capable of maintaining character consistency at all times. In my undertaking as an authentic leader, I learnt the art of reconciling any inconsistencies that arose due to the dynamism of self regulation to that of ensuring a match in character and actions.
Authentic leadership requires that the leader be capable of presenting the real self to the outside world. Such an act amounts to transparency. Through acts of transparency, a leader can foster an atmosphere of interpersonal trust. In expressing relational transparency, leaders use a personal disclosure approach where they ensure the necessary information is shared, with the leaders ensuring that they express their true feelings and thoughts whilst keeping off from inappropriate emotions (Ilies, Morgenson & Nahrang 2005, p. 182).
Ilies, Morgenson and Nahrang (2005, p. 182) argue that leaders need to cultivate an environment of self disclosure, whilst fostering mutual intimacy to create an environment, whereby everybody is accustomed to all the favorable and unfavorable acts of one another. For this to be achieved, participants of in the intimacy need to uphold legitimacy, and be honest with those around them. However, it need be observed that transparency is often a product of authentic behavior. Indeed, Kernis (2003, p. 203), points out those relationships that demonstrate high standards of openness and truthfulness are often anchored under the maxims of authentic behavior. When leaders uphold authentic behavior, they often experience stances of unconditional trust amongst their followers.
I will refer to honesty, respect, teamwork, and self confidence as my main drives towards authenticity. When leaders are honest, confident, and, respectful in themselves, they attract unconditional trust from their followers. With trust, free exchange of information and knowledge is facilitated in the relationship leading to teamwork and improved performance. I realized the importance of putting my life under the scrutiny of my team members as they helped in identifying areas that I need to improve in my leadership.
I also embraced the act of expressing my thoughts in all situations as a way of ensuring openness in all situations. For example, during team meetings, I took the initiative to contribute in all team discussions as this plays a vital role in developing the abilities needed in being an open and influential leader. I found it equally relevant to learn to express my feelings in different situations. Kernis (2003, p. 242) argues that relational orientation involves fully practicing self disclosure and fostering of mutual honesty. By so doing, other people learn to understand an individual better, and they are too compelled to share their personal lives. In my relationship with friends, I noticed that when I shared my thoughts with them, they also felt equally compelled to share what they thought about different situations in the team’s tasks.
The advantage of openness and trust manifests in the ability to exchange information and knowledge in a free and healthy manner. Authentic leaders embrace an atmosphere where information and knowledge are shared in an open manner. The views of other people are indispensable in the leadership process, and unless other people are involved in leadership, it may be unsuccessful. I noted that the most successful teams in the school were usually under the leadership of captains who welcomed the views of all team members (Avolio et al. 2004, p. 56).
Unbiased processing refers to the processing of self relevant information whilst incorporating views of private knowledge, self experiences and externally evaluated information. According to Avolio at el. (2004) unbiased self processing is anchored in the leader’s ability to exercise personal integrity and strong character as actions which influence their acts, decisions and their personal autonomy. Simply put, this element of unbiased processing involves accepting one’s attributes, qualities, favorable and unfavorable aspects.
The manner in which authentic leaders select information-generating situations for processing both internal experiences and external interactions is also encompassed in the function of unbiased processing. The individual theories determine how performance oriented leaders justify their actions. One of the most defining attributes of performance oriented people, is their focus on comparing themselves with others in a bid to prove how better they are, compared to other people. Rather than focusing on personal developing, performance oriented leaders focus on personal validation. Such leaders believe that intellectual ability is a fixed and invariable element (Dweck 2000, p. 132).
In contrast, leaders who embrace the incremental theory believe in the variability of intellectual ability. Such leaders believe that intellect can be improved. Congruently, they offer themselves into challenging activities and opportunities whilst using them as building blocks towards achieving personal growth and intellectual improvements. Dweck (2000) argues that leaders who embrace the incremental theory approach their duties and life experiences with a main aim of learning and increasing their competence in performing the task. Such individuals also demonstrate high levels of self direction and personal regulation. In fact, they believe that ability can be altered, and through determination and hard work, success is achievable (Dweck 2000, p. 134).
To incorporate these views, I refer to success as one of the team’s main values. Our team was all through geared toward achieving success. In academics, I have always believed that improvements are possible despite what grades I got. In my initial years, in school, I was an average student who was content by having grades that were similar to peers’. Although my parents commended that my grades were good, they observed that, I had the potential to achieve better. In the years of my high school, I decided to put more effort in schoolwork and ultimately I started improving my performance.
In co-curricular activities, I have shown interest in various activities such as football, skating, and playing in the band. Initially, skating and getting into the band were so challenging that I almost gave up. However, my peers offered me much motivation that has seen me become an expert in the activities. After completing my undergraduate, I intend to enroll for an MBA whilst learning other life lessons such as personal finance. Through such acts of determinism, Gardner et al. (2005), observes that unbiased processing could be a reality. Therefore, it is crucial for authentic leaders to seek for self improving avenues as well as opportunities to learn new skills in order to meet the requirements of unbiased processing.
Understanding Personal History
The journey to authentic leadership cannot be complete without having the ability to interpret one’s life experiences, and trigger events that offer the platform for further personal development. The underpinning determinants of an authentic leader’s personal history are the family, culture, education, profession, work experience, and childhood experiences. Personal history is essential to every authentic leader since it helps in discovering one’s self. Personal history is stored in one’s individual memory where it is used to shape one’s identity in the desired direction (Avolio et al. 2004, p. 145).
Gardner et al. (2005, p. 365) noted that most successful authentic leaders identified to at least one role model at some point in their lifespan. The role models are in many cases family members, teachers, or mentors who can demonstrate high levels of personal uprightness, dependability and transparency. Researchers believe that such role models played prominent roles in shaping the leaders self development and self awareness. In addition, it is also widely believed that authentic followers also seem to view authentic leaders as role models.
In many instances, I have been a follower of my various leaders who happen to be my immediate teachers, parents, and team leaders. Often, I have learnt a number of leadership behaviors from them that affect me to the present day. For example, my parents brought me up as an honest, diligent, and moral person, values that I uphold to this date. Self discipline that was instilled in me by both parents and teachers has also been instrumental in fostering healthy interpersonal relationships with both my peers and followers. In leading teams, personal history as played a vital role in shaping my leadership style towards authenticity.
It is widely believed that most authentic leaders identify to some events in their life that stimulated their personal development and growth urges. In most instances, these events are mainly negative in their nature. Events such as financial distress, loss of a loved one, and trauma have often been associated with life changing capabilities. However, Kernis (2003, p. 65) argues that some positive life experiences can also serve as equal opportunities for turning a person’s life.
Events such as personal achievements, inspirational and motivational books, relationships with people with disabilities, expatriate assignments, and promotion are some of the positive events that may also give rise to authentic leaders. In my journey to authentic leadership, I have mainly been influenced by positive trigger events. I have attended a number of leadership clinics and exhibitions where I have interacted with a number of leaders who have motivated me to becoming one.
While leading my team, I tried to incorporate some of the leadership tactics I learnt from my role models to challenges that arose along the way. My father, who also holds a leadership role in his profession, acts as a source of motivation. In many occasions, my father had invited me to his office. During these visits, I managed to learn various approaches he applied to execute his mandate. During such visits, I have also the privilege of interacting with other young leaders in the organization whom I have significantly admired. With this exposure to such kind of events, I eventually developed an enormous desire to be such a successful leader.
Positive Psychological Capital
In the mind of every authentic leader lays concrete psychological capabilities of immense optimism, unwavering confidence, upbeat hope, and swift resilience (Luthans and Avolio, 2003). With such psychological capabilities, authentic leaders can improve their self-awareness and self-regulating acts. In their research, Luthans and Avolio, assumed that these psychological capabilities are the building blocks to authentic leadership and thus they should be developed prior to becoming an authentic leader.
Garner et al. (2005), however, differs with Luthan and Avolio assumptions. Instead, Garner observed that more research in the field ought is indispensable to ascertain whether psychological capital is an antecedent, vital element or product of authentic leadership. Today most researchers are still polarized regarding the position that psychological capital should assume. Various researchers agree that psychological capital is an essential component in authentic leadership (Seligman 2002).
In my journey, I have applied this component as an integral requirement to becoming an authentic leader. Confidence, respect, and quality are among the main psychological capabilities I uphold. I realized that in most undertakings, be it be in academics, co curricula activities, or social relationships it is vital to exercise some degrees of these values. Studies have established that possessing such positive psychological capabilities, helps one to develop a good attitude towards development and change. In turn, this leads to better developed individuals, groups, institutions, and societies that can prosper and thrive (luthans 2004).
Positive Moral Perspective
According to Luthans and Avolio (2003, p. 165), having an inherent ethical and moral component, is also integral to becoming an authentic leader. A moral component plays a pivotal role in an authentic leader’s transparent decision making. It has been established that authentic leaders base their decisions on elements of ethical capability, efficacy, and courage to help them attain sustained actions (May et al, 2003). Such moral standards help the leaders to form a well established self-regulation that is governed by internal ethics and value standards that can overcome all pressures emanating from communities, groups and institutions.
However, other authors such as Cooper et al. (2005) and Sparrowe (2005), disagree with the including of such standards into authentic leadership. Their argument is that such an act will dilute the meaning of authenticity thus making it difficult for future researchers to define the meaning of authentic leadership.
In developing authentic leadership, individuals need to embrace transparency, whilst balancing on their decision making, and nurturing ethical perspectives that help in developing self awareness. In so doing, leaders provide themselves with a capacity for sharing honest reasons that necessitate their decisions. Balanced decision making entails embracing conflicting views through initiating a team-based approach of problem solving. Nurturing ethical perspectives involve broadening capacities, ensuring the validity of diverse views and welcoming an inclusive perspective (Wernsing 2008).
Werning (2008) further believes that developing self awareness should be a lifelong undertaking. In order to be successful in becoming authentic leaders, we firstly need to take an evaluation of ourselves on the continuum of leadership. Later, we need to determine our intrinsic strengths and values and undertake to align our lives with them. The main shortcoming of Werning’s approach is its failure to account for value changes that may occur during the long-term self awareness development program.
Personally, I have embraced the views of luthans and Avolio (2003, p. 231) that a moral perspective is essential in authentic leadership. I have been brought up from a moral background where ethics and values take precedence over one’s actions. My parents have always encouraged me to uphold good morals throughout my life since good morals are key to success. At the church, right from my Sunday school, to the present moment, the message has been the same; that good morals antecede good behavior. At school, right from the elementary levels, morals have been always emphasized as the basis for appropriate behavior. This sought of upbringing has socialized me into becoming a moral agent who basis all life’s undertakings on morality an aspect I demonstrated throughout the team leadership.
Follower Self Awareness and Regulation
This step marks the end of my journey as an authentic leader. Gardner et al. (2005, p. 98) observes that authentic leader followers’ self awareness is largely influenced by the leaders. Authentic followers view authentic leaders as their models for positive values, motives, transparency, success, and authenticity. Research has established that new entrants to a team led by an authentic leader adapt to the new work-environment immediately. For example, if the authentic leaders’ integrity is high, and they are focused on personal development, they easily identify the strengths of the new entrants and focus on developing them. When followers are so developed, they play a significant role as positive trigger events that can be used in bettering the leader.
As a leader, I have learnt to accept the importance of knowing your followers from the inside. This helps the leader in assigning duties, interpersonal relationships within the group and in conflict resolution. Through embracing the value of teamwork, I was able to bring my team members into one accord. Working in the team was smooth, and this led to efficient task accomplishment, and ultimately success.
Authentic leadership is an essential component to all modern day leaders. Leaders of all levels; organizational leaders, team leaders, group leaders and even state leaders, need to embrace a culture of authenticity in their leadership. This paper has established that, alongside accomplishing success, authentic leadership ensures leader accountability, influence, and transparency. This enables leaders who embrace authenticity, transcend as organizational legends that not only brought success but organizational cohesion. My journey to authenticity was also successful. I managed to lead my team towards accomplishing our tasks in the right time and successfully. Although, I did not achieve maximum member motivation, the team members were happy with what we accomplished. I also observed that the team members by the end of our mission had already transformed to authentic followers.
The world financial crisis can also be attributed to the lack of transparent leaders. It is noted that leaders who were entrusted with driving the word economy, entered into acts of greed with the private leaders, to cause what is today the most severe word financial crisis. These and other acts that happen behind the corporate scenes inspire the need for authentic leadership. Authentic leadership is expected to bring new leadership styles that are based on moral values, professional ethics, and authenticity.
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