Authentic Leadership: Would You Follow You?

by  Steve Keating  |  Self Leadership

People are pretty interesting to study. So many people from so many places, so many different cultures, backgrounds, and histories. So many differences.

But even in a world of differences there are some things that we can find most everyone has in common, and one of those common factors is that the majority of people hold others to a higher standard than they hold themselves. And that’s likely a key reason why most people are not authentic leaders. Authentic leaders, the type that we would all follow, hold themselves to a higher standard than they hold others.

Most people have high expectations for themselves but authentic leaders do not merely have high expectations, they have high standards. We may expect much of ourselves but we also provide ourselves with many excuses that authentic leaders simply don’t need. Authentic leaders don’t make excuses, they make commitments to excellence.

Authentic leaders know that people tend to “follow up”, they follow people they want to be like or they follow someone they believe sets an example of who they could become.  No one “follows down”, they don’t follow people that they would not want to be like or people that they cannot trust. When someone with a leadership title or in a position of leadership holds themselves to lower standards than they hold others they lose the trust of their people and they lose the ability to truly lead.

So there is our question: Would you follow you?  Do you expect more from others than you expect from yourself? Do you hold others to a higher standard than you hold yourself?

Do you allow yourself excuses that you would not allow others? Are the majority of your mistakes “excusable” but not the mistakes of others?

In order to properly answer those questions you must be completely honest with yourself because if you’re lying to yourself, you’re also lying to everyone else.

Excellent, experienced, authentic leaders pause from time to time to ask themselves those very questions. If they don’t like the answers, they take immediate steps to change them. An authentic leader has no other choice.

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What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  24 Mar 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for the great post Steve. I think we all appreciate leaders who “are themselves” rather than what they think they should be. Maybe there really are two types of people in the world, those tired of acting like they’re someone else and those that aren’t tired of it yet.

Authentic, genuine, character-based, values-based; those are all great terms to describe a leader who attracts collaborators because of who they are and what they’re doing. I like this new leader. I hope we see many more of them.


Billy Kirsch  |  24 Mar 2011  |  Reply

Great post Steve. As a reflective exercise your question, ‘would you follow you’ is so important. It’s a question leaders should ask themselves often, and especially before launching new initiatives. Thanks.

Chuck Hebert  |  24 Mar 2011  |  Reply

Steve – Insightful question and post. I hope that all leaders stop and ask themselves this question!!

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