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Determining your personal leadership style

This is an excerpt from Administration of Intercollegiate Athletics by Erianne Weight & Robert Zullo.

Leadership Lesson

Your Authentic Leadership Style

Imagine sitting across from a donor who has deep pockets and an affinity for your women's soccer program. If you can convince her to donate, you will make a name for yourself in the department and make the soccer coach very happy. For a moment, you feel a twinge of self-doubt - you've never been in this situation before. You watched your predecessor close deals in his charismatic and somewhat brash style, and you concluded that his approach must be what donors like. He was worshiped in the department and brought in millions. So you do your best to channel his style, even though it's not entirely natural for you. The lunch ends early, you don't get the donation, and the potential donor reports back to the department that she just didn't trust you and doesn't feel comfortable giving at this time.

So often, we believe that in order to fit the mold of a leader, we must act in a certain way. In this leadership lesson, we will debunk that myth and help you discover your own authentic leadership style.

During the last 50 years, more than a thousand studies have been conducted by leadership scholars seeking to pin down the profile of a leader. So far, no one has identified definitive characteristics. Some overarching conclusions, however, have been drawn. Leadership is not about charisma, personality, or even talent. Instead, it is about vision, principles, passion, discipline, and purpose (Collins & Porras 1994; Covey, 2004; Drucker, 2005; George & Sims, 2007; Goleman, 2000; Kotter, 2001). A leader is not someone who gets by on quick-fix personality alterations learned at the latest seminar but a person who is genuine and authentic - who has what Covey calls the "character ethic" (2004). Indeed, George, Sims, McLean, and Mayer (2007) have argued that authentic leadership emerges through our individual life stories.

As a result, as you continue your journey toward becoming a leader in the industry of intercollegiate athletics, it is important for you to gauge where you have been, where you are, who you are, where you hope to go, and who you hope to be. As you do so, George et al. (2007) suggest that you ask yourself the following questions.

  • Which people and experiences in your early life had the greatest effect on you?
  • What tools do you use to become self-aware? What are the moments when you say to yourself "this is the real me"?
  • What are your most deeply held values? Where did they come from? How do your values inform your actions?
  • What motivates you extrinsically? What are your intrinsic motivations? How do you balance extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in your life?
  • What kind of support team do you have? How can your support team make you a more authentic leader? How should you diversify your team to broaden your perspective?
  • Is your life integrated? Are you able to be the same person in all aspects of your life - personal, work, family, and community? If not, what is holding you back?
  • What does being authentic mean in your life? Are you more effective as a leader when you behave authentically? Have you ever paid a price for your authenticity as a leader? Was it worth it?
  • What steps can you take today, tomorrow, and over the next year to develop your authentic leadership?

One of the most dangerous myths that can trap you in your professional progression is that of the "complete leader" - the idea that in order to be credible you must be flawless and know everything. This notion can lead you to present yourself as a contrived version of what you think a leader should look like. However, a growing body of literature supports doing the opposite of this cookie-cutter approach. Specifically, scholars have urged leaders to do the following.

  • Accept that you're human, with strengths and weaknesses (Ancona, Malone, Orlikowski, & Senge, 2007).
  • Blend deep personal humility with intense professional will (Collins, 2005).
  • Show that you're human, capitalize on your uniqueness, and care passionately about your employees (Goffee & Jones, 2000).
  • Be self-aware - know your strengths, weaknesses, drives, and values (Goleman, 2005)

People trust you when you are genuine and authentic, not a replica of someone else.

George et al., 2007, p. 129

Learn more about Administration of Intercollegiate Athletics.

More Excerpts From Administration of Intercollegiate Athletics