Authentic leadership

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Authentic leaders find inspiration and direction in their life stories. What’s your leadership story?

What’s your leadership story? I was reading an interview with Bill George (former chairman and CEO of US company Medtronics) this past week and it tapped into a point I made in my blog last year – that leadership is a deeply personal thing that can’t really be “taught”, that we can all find our leader within (read that blog here).


But where do the true lessons of leadership come from? Interestingly not from any of the myriad of courses and programs dedicated to churning out “leaders.” At least not according to some of the 125 people who were identified as successful and authentic leaders and interviewed for the book “True North: Discover your Authentic Leadership.”


For every one of these people, the basis of their leadership was not found in a series of common traits and characteristics, but instead in their passion and lessons from their life stories.


For example, the banking CEO who’s experience growing up in a small town gave him a unique understanding of the importance of relationships and being “neighbourly”, and the head of a cosmetics company who grew up being told that women were capable of anything, and then went on to transform the organisation into a place that empowered women.


My own understanding of leadership was strongly influenced by my years as a competitive swimmer. Even though it is a mostly individual sport, I came to see the importance of a strong cohesive team spirit in lifting the performance of each person to new levels.


Great leaders are authentic leaders. They are themselves, and bring their own life experiences to the table, using them to shape their approach and the organisations, groups or teams that they lead.


And that’s where it gets interesting – we all have experiences that can bring out our inner leader, but you do have to work to find them. Like so much in life, there is no spell that can magically make you a leader (beware of leadership programs that promise otherwise). You must look inside yourself and understand who you are and what you want before you can bring those things to others.


Be who you are, know who you are and where you have come from, know what you want and why. It is not the whole story of leadership, but it is a great place to start!




Read the full Bill George interview and listen to the podcast here. (Please note you may need to register with [email protected] to access this – it is a free, useful and engaging resource).


You can get the books Authentic Leadership and True North online.


Find out more about Bill George and his somewhat maverick approach to leadership in this Fast Company article.


Welcome to 2008 and see you next week.



Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.



To read more Michel Hogan blogs, click here.



SmartCompany is the leading online publication in Australia for free news, information and resources catering to Australia’s entrepreneurs, small and medium business owners and business managers.

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