What do you think of when you hear the term true north? The technical definition refers to the line up the earth that takes you directly to the North Pole. A compass on the other hand points you to magnetic north. So which is correct? How do you know where you are going? I would like you to consider another definition of True North, one that applies to how you live your life. Diving a little deeper, to use this definition to define your leadership.
True North, as it applies to your life, incorporates the values, passions and motivations that are most important to you and help you find satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. I submit further, that these same values translate into how you can lead authentically. Brenda Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee says “The most important thing about leadership is your character and the values that guide your life.” So I ask you, are you guided by an internal compass that represents your true values? Do you live out these values in every decision you make?
Bill George in his book entitled True North explores this topic in great depth. Bill tells us all to discover our authentic leadership in order to lead in our passion, but to do so while remaining true to our innermost values. Every one of us has an arena where we can lead. But it is up to us to discover for ourselves what our authentic leadership is and then to put it to work.
What are the traits of an authentic leader? According to Bill George there are 5 of them:
· Pursue purpose with a passion
· Practice solid values
· Lead with your heart
· Establish enduring relationships
· Demonstrate self discipline
Without a real purpose, leaders are at the mercy of their egos and are vulnerable to the purpose of others. Do you think the leaders of Enron started out to break the law? I submit that somewhere along the line they forgot their real purpose.
Values are personal and must be established by each one of us, but one value is necessary for every leader to be successful. That value is INTEGRITY. As a leader do you allow integrity to be a part of every decision? More importantly do your actions follow what you say? Do they and you, hold up under pressure?
Authentic leaders will lead both with the head as well as the heart. Do you have passion both for your work, as well as the people you serve? How about empathy for the people who work for you? Do you have the courage to make the tough decisions?
All good leaders develop enduring relationships. Many people today will only follow a leader where can have a personal relationship. Are you available for your employees? Your customers? Your family?
Self Discipline, without it an authentic leader will never produce the results of which they are capable. Self discipline means among other things, the ability to admit your mistakes and take immediate corrective actions.
So how does one become an effective leader? Like everything else in this world you start with the hardest person in your life to lead…YOU. You must take responsibility for your own growth and development. Begin your journey by devoting yourself to a lifetime of development and learning. Talent will get you only so far, like every great athlete or musician, they and you, still need to practice and grow every day.