It seems despite all attempts to ignore the 2016 Presidential election cycle it is upon us. The rise of the 24-hour news cycle gives us an endless supply of sound bites and quips from the candidates and those that spend their lives tracking them. The flood of information is staggering and we need to find a constructive way to filter that flood.
Over the past few years much of our work has centered on the relationship of character to leadership. Our proposition is that a person’s character is the basis for their leadership and the challenges we face are not environmental, economic, social or legal, they are challenges of character and leadership. Since politicians are aspiring to leadership positions via election a logical conclusion is to evaluate every political candidate against a model that contains the essential components of authentic leadership.
We built the Authentic Leadership Checklist last year to help leaders understand the power of authentic leadership. The authenticity of leaders is directly connected to the bottom line of every organization. Authentic leaders are more likely to fully engage their employees and that engagement is linked to organizational prosperity. The same is true of those that are elected to leadership roles. The authenticity of elected leaders is crucial to their ability to engage the electorate, and once elected, to engaging people toward positive outcomes.
The Authentic Leadership Checklist consists of three major components:
Authentic leaders demonstrate strong (not perfect) character. They have a clear set of positive core values, they treat people equitably while demonstrating humility and fostering hope through wisdom all the while staying focused on people and demonstrating courage.
In addition to strong character authentic leaders know how to lead within the context of their organization. This means adjusting leadership to fit the time, place, industry, history and culture of the organization. The ability to adapt is essential for a leader to be truly authentic.
Beyond character and context authentic leaders are competent. Competence begins with self-awareness and includes expertise, strategic and integrated thinking along with the ability to communicate and demonstrate accountability.
Leadership is the authentic ability to move a group of people through non-coercive means to an end that is in the long-term best interest of everyone. Even though not specifically written for elected leaders the checklist certainly applies to those that parade in front of our multiple screens asking for our support. In the end we choose our leaders and we should be looking for those that possess superior character, know how to adapt to the context they lead within and have the competence to be effective. The failure to evaluate the authenticity of our politicians ultimately says more about us as voters than it does about those we elect.