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[RMIT Organisational Manager Erin Freeman is shown in an office environment speaking on a video call to RMIT Senior Lecturer, Learning and Development, Dr Andy Wear]
[Erin Freeman speaks to camera]
Thanks so much for joining me, Andy. One of the things we've been exploring this series is self- leadership, and something that comes up a lot in this conversation is the notion of authentic leadership. What would you describe as’ authentic self’ in this context?
[Dr Andy Wear]
Yeah, well, I guess everybody knows the maxim ‘Know thyself’. And this is probably the most direct point of reference inasmuch as it's a directive designed to acknowledge connect and be assured with who you really are. So far so good. But, when we talk about authentic leadership, a moral component enters the equation. And because authentic leadership in its ideal relies on the essential character of the individual to be an almost incorruptible standard, this creates some paradoxes and real challenges for leaders, particularly in times of disruption as we're experiencing now. So, we need to articulate an authenticity, better so that we can feel confident in leading without compromising our authentic selves.
So could you explain this paradox a little more, and what we could maybe do to resolve it?
[Dr Andy Wear]
There's a growing body of research showing that self-reported ‘authenticity’ actually captures people acting in socially desirable ways rather than in line with the traits of their true selves. That is, authenticity is only perceived as being valued when it aligns with social norms. So the message gets diluted. It's one thing to know thyself. But something completely different to ‘be thyself’.
So, what can a leader do ff they're worried that their authentic self, I mean their real self, might not be ‘fit for purpose’ right now. So in a climate like now, say you’re a leader that's task-orientated or, you know, fairly direct, or perhaps quite introverted, or maybe all of the above. And we're now asking leaders to check in on how people are feeling or create a team culture of care. What can that mean for those people, trying to demonstrate authentic leadership?
[Dr Andy Wear]
There are other leadership models of course, and you might well have been hired to lead in a particular environment that has likely changed immensely. But you have to ask yourself, what does the context require? What is our shared purpose? Your authentic self can ask and answer these questions and put strategies and - I think really importantly - communications in place to build a team response to the situation.
In fact, you might even consider this an opportunity to seek and to nurture future leaders from within your team. And if you are open enough to say to your team, “Hey, I know this isn't a great strength of mine but I'm trying, and I'd love your help, or some thoughts on how we can move through this together” - you might be really surprised, both by yourself, and by your team.
So, there are a lot of things you can do that don’t necessarily betray your authentic self. In fact, this could be a really good opportunity to get to know aspects of yourself that you'd previously never encountered.