7. Authentic leadership
Le   In the Harvard Business Review ‘Discovering Your Authentic Leadership’ of February 2007 Bill George and others describe a research on authentic leadership. During the past fifty years more than 1000 studies have tried to establish styles, characteristics and personality traits of great leaders. But none of these studies led to a clear profile of the ideal leader. Fortunately though, otherwise a version that could be copied would appear and the characteristic of an authentic person is that he does not become that on the basis of copying behaviour. You can learn with and from others but you will never become successful if you try to be the other person.
George, Sims, McLean and Mayer interviewed 125 leaders in order to investigate how they developed their leadership qualities. In the analysis no universal characteristics, character traits, skills or styles were found that led to their success. Their leadership became visible in their life stories. Leaders are not born with specific character traits. Yet it seemed conditional that they had developed self-consciousness from their experiences. Authentic leaders act consciously by practising their values and principles, sometimes with substantial risks for themselves.
The trip to authentic leadership begins with understanding your own life story. Your life story offers the context for new experiences. Through this you can find inspiration to exert influence. Or as the novelist John Barth said: “The story of your life is not your life. It is your story.”
When the 75 members of the ‘Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council’ were asked what the most important talent is for leaders, the answer was almost unanimously: self-consciousness.
Many leaders indicated that their motivation was determined by different experiences in their lives. They got to know their real values when they were tested under pressure. The leadership principles became visible as values in their actions. Intrinsic (inner) motivations were congruent with the values and more satisfying than extrinsic (outer) motivations.
Authentic in every room
Think of your life as a house with a bedroom for your personal life, a study for your professional life, a living-room for you family and friends. Can you take away the walls and be the same person in every room?
Authentic leaders know what people and experiences have had impact on them, they are aware of the way in which they become more self-conscious, they can formulate their deepest values, they (also ) know what motivates them extrinsically , they are aware of the people that really support them and they live in an integrated way.

Questions you can ask yourself about the development of your authentic leadership are:
1. What people and experiences have had a great impact on me?
2. What tools do I use to become self-conscious?
3. What are my deepest values?
4. What motivates me extrinsically?
5. Who are the people who support me?
6. Is my life integrated?
7. What does ‘being authentic’ mean in my life?
8. Which steps can I take to work on my authentic leadership today, tomorrow and next year?

For authentic leaders there are many special rewards. But individual achievements cannot surpass the pleasure of leading a group of people that serve an important, common aim. When you cross the finish together, all pain and effort have quickly disappeared. It has been replaced by a deep, inner satisfaction that you have enabled others to improve the world. That is the challenge and the satisfaction of authentic leadership.

The destination of the headmaster differs from that of the other teachers; yet part of the education is also assigned to him ,but above all it is his task to take care of the coherence and the arranged course of all matters; he must be the soul of the school Thorbecke, founder of the Dutch parliamentary democracy (1863)

Authenticity is not reserved for leaders only
Counsellors often tell effortlessly how their intentions and values relate to their own life experiences. I asked a team to write down what their most important intentions were, which they try to live up to with the children that they counsel. Then I asked them if they could remember situations from the past that had laid the foundation for these intentions and values. A selection from the reactions:
Happy children and linkedness. “I did not like to go to school and I can remember especially how I felt when I was alone in the corridor. I will never do that to children.”
Respect, whoever the other may be. “Many Turkish people came to live in our neighbourhood when I was about eight years old. My father always acted normally towards these people, while many other people did not do that. I have always wanted to follow the example of my father. I thought he was good when he did that. ”
Being respected and being allowed to say “no”. “I have never dared to say no.”
Educating children to independent citizens.”We had a shop at home and we were raised very independently. We were stimulated to undertake but always with much emotional attention from my parents. ”
Making a stand for your opinion. “When my parents told me that Sinterklaas did not exist, I said that God may not exist either. I was not allowed to say and think that. I have always thought this annoying. ”
Self-confidence. “I knew already a lot before I went on holiday to Asia alone. There I learnt what it is to try and learn to trust yourself. That is the most important thing.”
Loaded and not loaded values
In part 4 of the ‘Almanac of Mercy’ an interview has been included that Adri Bosch held with Foppe de Haan, former football trainer of Heerenveen, trainer of Young Orange and coordinator of all national youth teams. De Haan swears by consultation. “Being in conversation is the life elixir of a righteous society.” He is ambassador of this principle in an environment where competition, selfishness and achievement dominate.
“I am at the service of people. There must be a distance between what people think and what I think. That belongs together. They recognise that I am one of them.”
De Haan tells that he moved to Grouw with his parents when he was thirteen and that things went wrong there with his mother. She could not realize her ambitions there. She was sitting inside and ‘got locked’ more and more. “That has influenced my life most of all,” Foppe says. “I cannot take it that people get locked. People must be open, must get chances, attention , education, social relationships.” Next he links his mentality to his culture. “I cannot stand injustice. That is the way the Frisians are. They do not come quickly, but when they do, it comes. When you have got them, you have really got them, without ‘yes, but.’ When we go, all of us go. With our own language and our own emotions.”
About the differences in working atmosphere he says: “In Zeist there are good people, just like here, but the distance between management and those young players is too big. The contact is too formal, too official. I want more consultation, more informal contact. It must be from man to man again. Therefore all those organisations have to be as flat as a penny, as flat as a football field. I want to teach trainers that they must teach their boys to be proud of the fact that they may play in the Dutch team. I join their team to Mexico and Turkey and I watch. I watch and ask at the end: why did you do that with that player? I give no answers. You had better let things come from inside. ”
In the Telegraaf Foppe de Haan says on 2 January 2008:
About upbringing: “A coach is always an educator. You explain things, you take action every now and then and you discuss matters with players. As a coach you must look much further than just football. You look at the people.”
About ethics: “As a coach you are responsible for your own behaviour and for that of the group to a high extent, because you can influence it. I want to have peace and quiet and I want players to behave in a normal, decent way. You must have respect for each other and value each other’s qualities. You must create such an atmosphere without making rules for it. If the standards of decency are violated a coach must intervene. If a player thinks differently about it, I send him away. ”
About communication; “A good communication is very important. During the recent European championships my players decided themselves not to take their iPods and walkmans to the training field. In Langezwaag, where we were training, there were some 300 enthusiastic children waiting for us at a certain moment. The players got off the coach like zombies with such a thing in their ears. There were only a few boys who paid attention to the youth. Then I said to Ron Vlaar and Ryan Babel among others: “ Do you think this is normal?” When we were training again in the afternoon, nobody had those things with them. That was ‘bloody’ excellent.”

Oiled machines and tail-hangers
Tl-Raleigh was a Dutch cycling team between 1974 and 1983 and was led by Peter Post. This team was very successful as well in classic matches as in stage races. Famous cyclists that appeared for this team were among others Joop Zoetemelk, Jan Raas, Gerrie Knetemann, Hennie Kuiper, Henk Lubberding and Johan van der Velde. The team was known for its strong discipline. Team time-trials belonged to their specialities. In ten years’ time the team won some thousand matches.
In a documentary the former cycling team were interviewed about their unequalled performances in team time-trials. It was never the question who would win, at most with how much difference in time. The professionals led by Post revealed their insights. Two insights were tactically interesting. The one who cannot ‘ride at the top fully’ may not ‘remain at the tail.’ That is far too heavy a burden for the rest and it is an inhuman way of torture for the ‘’tail-hanger. In order to end up with a good feeling the following agreement was made: you push through one more time to the head, ride yourself completely empty as long as you can and allow yourself to sink then. The team has had a maximum output from you just for a moment then and you have visibly done what you could.
I had to think of ‘tail-hangers’ in schools that always have to go along with the oiled machine. Is not it about time that we think about how you can ‘get off for a moment ’ with a good feeling? Children as well as councillors must profit from the mutual cooperation. It is important to see how everybody can ‘ride his own course’ as much as possible that contributes to a joint achievement. But if it leads purely to frustrations, a good and respectful form of farewell can sometimes be the highest attainable. Not everybody becomes happy in the same team.

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