Authenticity – the ultimate value for a leader?

So there we have it – the race for the White House has resulted in yet another major upset for a western democracy. Yet already the commentators are pointing to Hillary Clinton’s lack of authenticity as a prime cause. Is this a lesson for the business community?

Leaders have to connect with those they are leading and that means they have to be believable. The disconnect evident in both the US Presidential Election and the June BREXIT referendum result point to a worrying trend. If political leaders can get it so wrong then who have they been relying on to give them advice? In a social media age it is far easier for everyone to get messages and insights that can throw leadership behaviours into stark relief.

Clinton just didn’t come across as authentic. Nor, for that matter, did David Cameron and the REMAIN cause. Yet how often is this also the case within organisations? The results, as we have seen, have been a massive jolt to the system. More to the point the people who ultimately end up paying the costs are not the erstwhile leaders but the very people at the bottom of the pyramid.

To my mind this facet of leadership is undervalued. The media massage has masked the authenticity. So what can a budding leader do to avoid the pitfalls?

What should you do to achieve authenticity?

First the key is to make sure that actions and words are aligned. Walk the talk don’t just spout platitudes. But who is there to advise on what is and isn’t the authentic “you”?

Second a good leader believes in what they are doing because it reflects themselves. Just how often do we expect our leaders to exhibit conviction? Ideally most of the time. And if they haven’t got conviction about something then a little honesty and engaging in dialogue is the right way to go. The recent failures both show what happens if those who are attempting to lead don’t communicate their authenticity or at the very least an honest attempt to engage.

For an organisation the outcome can be catastrophic. Time will tell whether BREXIT or TRUMP are recoverable for the UK or the United States. But it is likely to be a generation before a complete reset can occur. I’d surmise that the same happens in large business where the leader(s) come(s) unstuck. Can you or your stakeholders afford that luxury? If not then now is the time to take some remedial action and get the leadership on track.