At this point in this series of newsletters on leadership, you might be feeling like each email is a performance evaluation…an opportunity to see a leadership standard, acknowledge some success, and dwell on critical words and areas needing improvement. It’s not.

This Leadership Challenge is a lens which through you can view your journey. It’s a framework to guide us – more topographic map than Google turn-by-turn directions.

The idea of leaders as a work-in-progress is vastly different than my leadership models in my formative years. My early leadership examples were the coach, teacher, manager, father, boss – men who held power over me. Men who judged me. Picked me. Or didn’t. Leaders who pretended to have all the right answers. What I’ll call Identity Leadership.

You’ll know it when you hear, ‘because I am the __________.’ Fill in the blank with the title teacher, coach, boss, etc. This type of leadership is derived from position, force, control, and persona.

Leadership training in the ManKind Project has been surprisingly different. For the first time, I’ve witnessed leaders who are doing their work and are willing to ask for help. When asked, “What is your growing edge?” They tell the vulnerable truth about where they are trying, failing, and succeeding.

When ManKind Project leaders are at their best, their identity is as a man. Yes, they have roles, responsibilities, and relationships, but that is not how they define themselves. I’ll call this Authentic Leadership. It is derived from behavior, character, vulnerability, and service.

If you journey further into the wilderness of authentic leadership here are some things to look for and work on:

Hypocrisy Gap, the term used by Robert Quinn in Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within to describe when leaders say one thing and do another. We all do it. The work is to see and close your hypocrisy gaps.

Character Vs. Persona – Our true character is often covered by a persona we created to keep us safe. Persona is not bad or good, it’s there to keep us safe. However, it’s not who we are. The work is to remember our character and to see our persona – our mask; shaped by culture, expectations, family, and institutions. Then, to live and lead as much as possible from our true character.

Courage – Vulnerability is not weakness, it’s courage. This is the message of Brene Brown who is a social scientist, author, and teacher. I love the way she defines the word, courage from its original meaning. Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. The work is to practice courage in this way.

Servant Leadership, the philosophy, and practices set out first by Robert Greenleaf. The primary goal is to serve those you lead. This is a sharp departure from a leader’s focus on self, financial and status goals, and personal achievement. The work is to embrace the burden and blessing of leadership and to adopt a servant-first mindset.

My personal journey into discovering my authentic leadership has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done for myself. My hope for you is that you will continue on your leadership journey.

Go Answer the Call