Hidden Lessons in Leadership #18

Words that came to mind when reading and thinking about Adam Bryant’s interview with Arkadi Kuhlmann, chairman and president of ING Direct USA, included authenticity, confidence, trustworthy, and follow.

Leading requires followers: As Arkadi claims “the only reason you’re going to be a leader is because people are going to follow you….” But to have followers one must be worthy of others’ trust.  People will not give their trust to another if that person can’t be trusted, simply because he/she holds a position of authority.  Yes one must be trustworthy.

One cannot effectively lead relying on the legitimate authority of the position they hold.  As Deming noted, the best way to lead is through your personality—I prefer the term personhood as it communicates more about your very being and less about superficial aspects.  Many when referring to this aspect of leadership speak of the notion of authenticity.

Arkadi asserts, “My philosophy of leadership is to be authentic in the way you deal with people.”  But to be authentic requires the development of the self—yes our very humanness!  This development is foundational to authenticity in leadership and management.  Until we garner the courage to do this work, as the song goes, we will keep looking for love in all the wrong places.  Until we care enough to live up to our ‘I-We’ responsible others will not have confidence that we will act with their best interest at heart.  Until this happens, we won’t have followers.

Also to have followers, one must be willing to follow.  To this point Arkadi said “…leadership is about service, and you can’t lead if you can’t follow.”  This is the acid test of trust in others, for if you don’t communicate through your actions that you are willing to truly listen to others then you are communicating that you don’t trust them.  In other words that you aren’t willing to take their point of view seriously and you aren’t willing to act on ideas that they may have.  Trust must be reciprocal as well as a free choice, otherwise it is just co-dependence.  Co-dependence is not leadership!

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