Embarking on the Authentic Leadership Journey

Within this series on authentic leadership I thought it would be useful to provide an outline of the book True North (discover your Authentic Leadership) by Bill George and Peter Sims. As well as providing an overview of the book itself this outline, although a bit list heavy, will provide me with a framework for other posts in the series.

Before I do that, a quote from the introduction to the book that explains the concept of “True North”.

“True North is the internal compass that guides you successfully through life. It represents who you are as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orienting point –your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life. Just as a compass points toward a magnetic pole, your True North pulls you towards the purpose of your leadership. When you follow your internal compass, your leadership will be authentic, and people will naturally want to associate with you. Although others may guide or influence you, your truth is derived from your life story, and only you can determine what it should be.”

I like that. The concept of an internal compass and the significance of your life story in leadership resonates strongly with me as I reflect on my own leadership journey. More on this in future posts.

Back to the book.

According to George and Sims the attributes of authentic leadership are:

• Pursing purpose with passion

• Practicing solid values

• Leading with the heart

• Establishing enduring relationships

• Demonstrating self-discipline

They describe authentic leadership as a journey. A journey that has four phases:

• Embracing your story

• Preparing for leadership

• Leading

• Giving back

Interestingly they also describe it as a journey from “I” to “We” which is one of the ways in which I have described my own journey so I’m particularly looking forward to writing about this. George and Sims suggest the journey from “I” to “We” involves:

Transformative experiences

•  Empowering others to lead

Having described the authentic leadership as a journey they talk about leaders who lose their way because they:

Lose touch with reality

• Fear failure

• Crave success

• Become lonely

• Lose sight of their True North

In summary George and Sims describe the journey to authentic leadership as a voyage of discovery that involves:

• Realising that you are the hardest person you will ever lead

• Knowing your authentic self

• Practicing your values and principles

• Understanding what it means to take responsibility

• Becoming self-aware

• Establishing your core values

• Working out what motivates you

• Building your support team

• Integrating your life

What a mouth-watering menu of things to write about!

Within the series I will explore these attributes and call out where George and Sims Authentic Leadership links to Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, as well as reflecting on my own journey to authentic leadership.

Mark Lawrence is a leadership and culture consultant