Our PSU WC commentary tells us that “there are some antecedent conditions necessary for authentic leadership to even start as a developmental process. Those are positive psychological capacities (confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience) and moral reasoning (PSU WC, L12, 2017, p 3). The antecedent conditions and psychological capacities are thought to catapult a leader into authenticity. While I did not search for a convincing case study, I am inclined to believe this is very much true based on my own personal experience.
When I started my small business 9 years ago I was well aware that I had no idea what I was doing nor what I was getting myself into. I just knew that I had a goal and a mission that needed my work to get accomplished. I set out to learn everything there was to know about the industry I was entering, and about the product I was going to sell. Learning everything there was to know about my industry was challenging, but not too much to tackle. What held me under its thumb was my imposter complex. Who was I to have an entire office when I had only ever sat at a cubicle and had not graduated college or ever managed a single person before in my life? Despite my inexperience and lack of confidence, I soldiered on and surprisingly found that everyone seemed to believe the big lie: that I was a leader. People came to me for advice, knowledge, and guidance. Some were even intimidated by me which I found inexplicable since my hands trembled while I presented and trained the large groups that would fill my conference room. I was intimidated by them because at any moment I was sure I would be discovered to be a complete phony.
Over the years I gained confidence, but I still felt I had to a “boss”. I had to fill the prescribed image of a leader even though I did not feel like one. It wasn’t until we had a big loss that almost made us close our doors that I realized I had become an actual leader. My antecedent condition was the severe loss in revenue that caused me to experience an entire year of severe financial hardship. During that time I focused on personal development, my education, absorbing the feedback I had gotten and taking corrective action to make constructive changes. In the process I developed the positive psychological capacities confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience which led me to feel like an authentic leader.
As an authentic leader I no longer felt like I had to fill a roll. On the contrary, I feel as though I am enough just as I am. I do not need to be a perfect leader, I can just be myself and that is enough. I feel comfortable being honest, vulnerable, and imperfect. For the first time I do not feel like I have to pretend to be something I am not, and the authentic manner in which I present myself has gotten me terrific results. I have much more comfortable and easy (even exciting) interactions with other leaders. I am treated as a credible and knowledgeable partner, and I am respected. All the things I wanted when I started out, I am now able to get. The caveat is they are not as important to me anymore. I need a lot less validation and I give a lot more praise.
You can’t fake being an authentic leader.