The thrill of authentic leadership

jay skate on thin ice“The wonderful and terrifying thing is you always feel a certain amount of risk is involved,” says Lowrie. “When you’re the first to get on it and there are no skate marks, you don’t really know how safe it is. But you know you’re the first.”  (Sag Harbor Express)

Authentic leadership is based on being trustworthy and on trusting others. And trusting others requires risk. You may get hurt or taken advantage of. Yet, as I have learned from my friend, pictured above, taking a risk to skate on the new ice can be worth it. But you need to be smart! That means doing some research and then making a judgement to go for it. The payoff is amazing!

Stephen M.R. Covey describes the same process in his book, Smart Trust. He highlights that leaders must use judgement when extending trust, particularly in the low-trust environment present in many organizations. Understanding our own willingness to trust others, combined with an analysis of the situation, can facilitate the decision to extend trust and be a truly authentic leader.

Covey presents a process and a matrix to help leaders extend trust smartly.

The firstSmart-Trust-Matrix step is to honestly assess our own personal tendency to trust others. Is it high or low?

Next leaders need to analyze the current situation using three variables.

  1. What is the current situation or opportunity? Clearly describe what you are trusting the other person to do.
  2. What is the level of risk? Identify the degree of risk in this situation. This include the possible outcomes, and their likelihood and importance.
  3. What is the credibility of the person? Use your past experience or seek other opinions to determine how much faith you have in the other person.

Opening ourselves up to the transparency and trust required to be authentic can be as scary as skating on thin ice. However, when we combine a willingness to trust others with an analytical process we can make smart decisions and open ourselves up to the thrill of authenticity in our leadership.

Todd Thorsgaard



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