You need to be constant, consistent and convinced.
The first is to always be constant in everything that you do. Be sure though to always try and do it well and to the best of your ability. A constant and steadfast leader will be greatly appreciated by those around you, for constancy is a great virtue.
Authentic leaders ensure that their school is self-regulated almost entirely by a carefully chosen set of constants, such as being clear about who we are, why we do what we do, and how we go about it in terms of accomplishing meaningful things.
Above all, constant leaders are persistent, relentless and unwavering, so secure are they in their beliefs.
The second habit is to always be consistent, and to do what is expected (i.e. the right thing). Consistency is the gold standard in leadership.
Nobody likes surprises, not least in times of turbulence or uncertainty. As an authentic leader, you must remain grounded at all times, allowing yourself to be anchored by your shared beliefs and the divergent views of authentic others.
Again, self-regulation is key here: take the time, for example, to pause and reflect on how best to solve tricky problems. Consistent leaders always turn up and always stand firm, not just alone, but alongside others.
Perhaps though, what consistent leaders really aspire to is to achieve personal mastery. They do this by continually clarifying and deepening their own sense of purpose and belief through rehearsal and self-regulation.
As we shall see in Chapter 12, mastery can only be achieved as a result of deliberate and purposeful practice. There is only so much you can learn about leadership by reading about it. You can only get better by practicing.
Finally, authentic leaders must always remain convinced. Convinced not only of their own abilities and purpose, but also of those around them, and the community that they lead.
Authentic leaders need to be as convincing as they are convinced. Confidence is key, but not at the expense of hubris, bravado and bluster.
You need to remain convinced that those around you (whom you trust) will not allow this to happen, for you are open to feedback and challenge at all times.
To convince people to follow you, you must be able to persuade, influence, cajole, nudge and gently encourage even the most sceptical of doubters of what it is you are trying to achieve, and why.
Convincing leaders are also credible leaders. Integrity and fidelity are essential here, especially in terms of loyalty to the cause. As a leader you are guided only by the truth, and so have a natural desire to remain curious as you seek continual verification.
So, authentic leaders are: consistent, in that they do the same things; constant, in that they keep on doing them; and convinced, in that they, and others, know why.
As we shall soon see, habits can be learned, and as leaders we need to normalise the associated behaviours so that worthiness and reliability are the norm. Perhaps what we need in order to achieve this is a new kind of ‘Provenance Leadership’, one where staff know exactly where you are coming from and that the provenance and source of your actions are the genuine article and of the highest quality.
But here’s the thing. Everything that is now authentic was once not: that initial attempt at a painting by Van Gogh, the prototype pair of Nike trainers, the first ever Eccles cake. Someone took a punt. Nobody would have passed these off as authentic first time.
As they became more constant and consistent, people soon became convinced they were the real deal because they knew what to expect, even though some might not necessarily like them.
You are no different. When you first walk out onto the leadership stage and take your bow, no one will know what to expect. So, as you step out from the wings, always try your best to be convincing, consistent and constant in everything you do.
You have much work to do therefore before you even begin to go about your day-to-day business of leading others. You have far more challenging matters to attend to, starting with yourself.
It is this that we’ll turn to next as we take a look at what it means to go from human being to ‘self being’ – the literal meaning of authentic. It’s about as bumpy and fraught a ride as you can imagine.
The above extract is taken from the opening chapter of The Authentic Leader, published by Bloomsbury on 13th October 2022. The book is available from Amazon, although if you pre-order it through Bloomsbury you can use the limited-time discount code, below, at the checkout to get 35% off.