It has been well documented that today’s culture craves authenticity in leadership. It shouldn’t be, but many times it is hard to find in leadership, even in the church. One of the fastest ways for a leader to lose loyal followers is to fall short in the area of authenticity.
I was talking with a young staff member of another church recently. She said the reason she struggles to follow her pastor is the pastor isn’t off stage who he claims to be on stage. I get that. I think all of us struggle with that one … both in living authentic lives and in following an inauthentic leader.
How do we remain authentic as leaders? Here are 7 thoughts on remaining an authentic leader:
1. Yes is yes and no is no. That means not over committing. It means following through on commitments made. It means learning to prioritize and learning to delegate. It helps people learn your word is good and worthy to follow.
2. Not calling it awesome if it was mediocre at best. Many times as leaders we want to pretend something is better than it really is, rather than admitting when something could be improved. We exaggerate success. We pretend our church is bigger than it really is. We pretend we are more awesome than we really are and our life is more perfect than it really is. People usually can spot a pretender.
3. Not claiming to know everything. We don’t. And, people know when we don’t. Better to admit it on our own.
4. Refusing credit when not deserved. Taking credit for other people’s work is not only wrong, it causes people to mistrust leadership. Authentic leaders seek recognition for others equal or more than their own.
5. Asking for help. Every leader needs it. Authentic leaders seek it. And they give credit to where they received it.
6. Remaining accessible and accountable. The fastest way for a leader to get in trouble is to isolate him or herself from others. Authentic leaders live transparent lives in front of all people and completely open to a few. You don’t have to confess every sin (that’d be all my time), but as leaders we need to live in a practice of confession and raw transparency or repetitive temptations, struggles and sins to a few people who can see and speak into the deepest parts of our lives. And have the freedom to ask the hard questions and challenge where necessary.
7. Admitting failures and confessing fears. You make them. We all do. Everyone trying to follow a leader knows this about the leader. Authentic leaders readily own up to them. Leadership is scary. Authentic leaders push through fear but don’t pretend the fear is not real.
What are some other ways you spot an authentic leader?
Ron Edmondson is a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. He is also a church leadership consultant who is passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Prior to ministry, Ron had more than 20 years of business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner. Follow Ron on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog at ronedmondson.com.
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