“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep authentic people and leaders”.
- Richard Foster
Real leadership is the process of motivating, mobilising, resourcing and directing people to passionately and diligently pursue a vision or an objective. The best ‘real' leaders are those who are authentic – connected to their followers by being genuine, caring and courageous. Leaders who are themselves and not trying to copy or emulate other leaders. Women are ‘hard-wired' to be authentic leaders, as most of these qualities are in-born. Our male compatriots are too often hindered by oversized egos and the need to compete, which is reflected in the troubled societies of today.
The world urgently needs a new generation of authentic women leaders, which is why I'm sharing my views with you in this thought-piece.
Authentic leaders set examples
Leaders are constantly scrutinised and they must conduct themselves accordingly. One may ask the question – is this fair? Absolutely. Leaders must set high standards – as their followers take their moral and spiritual cues from them.
Good character is like a muscle – it must be regularly exercised to become stronger. Always maintain appropriate habits and practices to expect these to reflect in the people you lead.
Be sure that the person you see in the mirror each morning is the kind of leader people want to emulate, respect and believe in. Do not be tempted to be popular rather than right, or drawn into petty, mean and sleazy actions.
As Peter Drucker said, “There is no such thing as business ethics – just ethics.” May we as women leaders strive to be authentic leaders of character, and may this be our unforgettable legacy.
Authentic leaders are passionate about work and life
Authentic leaders are passionate about their work. Even so, real work is not just fun, but often hard and exhausting. Rallying the troops is not about telling people to have fun, but motivating them to work harder to achieve more. Although often needing leadership to perform, people derive great satisfaction from work well done - and being seen to do so.
Lose your passion, and you may become one of those grey faced automations found in every workplace that bemoan the darkness rather than lighting a candle. Even though their financial rewards may be handsome, their negativity drags down co-workers around them.
Authentic leaders are infused with passion for their mission, and disseminate this to their teams.
Authentic leaders take risks
Women are naturally more cautious than men, but authentic leaders must grasp that taking a risk has its place when great achievements can be won. Allow me to illustrate through a personal example.
As a CA(SA) I was taught to be risk averse and find problems rather than solutions. But then I was appointed to lead SAICA's drive to transform the CA(SA) profession in South Africa. My team had a minimal budget, but much passion for our country and its people.
We launched SAICA's innovative 'Thuthuka' project in the Eastern Cape, which was the most challenging region we could have chosen - yet its need for education opportunities probably the greatest. Despite the lack of infrastructure and academic capability, in 2002 the Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund got off the ground with an initial R62 million funding from the Department of Labour.
Similarly, we were told that the Thuthuka Bursary Fund would never work, but today we have more than 900 accountancy students registered at nine 'Thuthuka accredited' universities. Thuthuka is now seen in government and the private sector as the national benchmark for transformation projects.
Authentic woman leaders are prudent - but aware that to achieve great things, taking a risk may be the best option.
Authentic leaders are exceptional
To become exceptional requires great effort when mediocrity is the route of least resistance. Being average is as close to the bottom as to the top.
As authentic leaders we always need to ask ourselves: are we doing our best? We need to aim at perfection in everything we do. Even though perfection may not always be attainable, in striving, we continually get closer. Many of you will have read or be aware of Malcolm Gladwell's best-seller book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success'. In his book he discusses research which shows that exceptional achievers owe their success to sheer hard work, with the rule of thumb being a minimum of 10 000 hours practice to achieve professional mastery. Studies in the 1990s of disparate groups - composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists and chess players – confirmed this result. There is simply no authentic short cut to the top.
Authentic leaders are significant
The late Dr Anton Rupert said, “Success is a taking thing - significance is a giving thing”. Most people want to be successful, but in a manner that is all about yourself, your wealth, your family, your career, your company. Significance is about changing the lives of others around us – because we are in a position to do so. Financial guru Keith Cameron Smith, author of the best-selling “The Spiritual Millionaire”, writes that millionaires believe they must be generous, the middle class believes it can't afford to give. Millionaires take calculated risks; the middle class is afraid to take risks. But he does say that not all millionaires are generous – only the happy ones are.
Women – a new breed of authentic leader
The world and South Africa need us women to start creating a new breed of authentic leaders with character, passion, and who are calculated risk-takers and exceptional people that lead by example, and are generous in our communities. We will lead the way to great and sustainable societies. asa
Author: Chantyl Mulder CA(SA) is Senior Executive: Professional Development - Transformation and Growth, SAICA.