The most frequently cited quality of exceptional leaders is authenticity/integrity. With the best leaders, what you see is what you get, they walk their talk, and so forth.
But situations arise that call upon the leader to fake it. They have to become an actor. They have to temporarily take on a persona different from their own. Here are three examples:
- In tough times (like these days) they must project a confident belief in the organization’s ability to weather the storm and come out of it OK in the end. This, even though they may be uncertain about the future themselves.
- An introverted leader addressing an all-staff meeting has to, at least for the duration of the presentation, express a higher level of passion and and exude greater extraverted energy than feels comfortable.
- Coaching a talented employee who is facing a bout of lethargy or self-doubt, a boss whose style is typically calm and measured may choose to confront the staffer with a tough, direct, in your face, challenge, one you might hear from a marine drill sergeant.
As long as the leader is taking on the role in full awareness of what he/she is doing and has a positive, caring spirit of intent, it is still authentic behavior.
The managers who are the best leaders have reached a higher stage of adult development. They know themselves and are aware whenever their intentions and behavior take them away from being their authentic self. They know it when they are acting…and they know why.