Are we looking for authentic leadership?

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The greatest way to live with honor in the world is to be What we pretend to be.          
—Socrates

Principally because of President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd, and his problematic legacy after five years in office, we have talked a lot lately about “authenticity” in looking at the momentous decision dawning on the nation next year.

Some have raised “authenticity” as the standard to measure the candidates, in addition to the standards that were traditionally raised.

As we go through the list of president wannabes, we can see why  people would want each  candidate to get real and authentic first, before  they bestow on them their support.


Checklist of candidates

Mar Roxas compels the use of the authenticity test on himself, because he has absurdly committed to becoming a clone of President Aquino  and adopting wholesale his Tuwid na Daan (straight path) rhetoric and policies.

Grace Poe whetted interest in authenticity because she carved her candidacy around a deceptive story about her origins, and keeps her banner flying around  the desperate hope that the Supreme Court will save her.

Vice President Binay excites talk about the real Jojo Binay, because he has burrowed into a hole in the ground to shield himself from the tsunami of allegations hurled at him.

Rody Duterte  literally claims authenticity as his badge by mounting an “in your face” presentation of his thoughts, his character, and policy ideas, in words  that many mistake for authenticity because  they are so offensive.

Miriam Defensor Santiago has become a mystery, because instead of presenting her well-known feisty self, she has retreated to the shadows and social media, waiting, many hope, to unwrap a spirited campaign after the holidays.

Interest in authenticity training    

In an article in the January-February issue of the Harvard Business Review this year, professor Herminia Ibarra of INSEAD (“Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires” or European Institute of Business Administration), reported that  there has been a  dramatic increase of interest in authenticity training among top companies and organizations.

She says that two trends explain the exploding popularity of the concept of authenticity and the fad that it has engendered in the training industry and leadership studies. She wrote:

“First, trust in business leaders fell to an all-time low in 2012, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. Even in 2013, when trust began to climb back up, only 18 percent of people reported that they trusted business leaders to tell the truth, and fewer than half trusted businesses to do the right thing.

“Second, employee engagement is at a nadir. A 2013 Gallup poll found that only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work.”

What is true of business is perhaps even more true of politics, where public confidence in leaders has plunged to new lows, as once popular leaders have fallen, and even comedians have been elected to replace some of them.

The word “authentic” used to be reserved for a work of art that is an original, not a copy. When used to describe leadership, of course, it has other meanings—and they can be problematic. And being utterly transparent—disclosing every single thought and feeling—is both unrealistic and risky.

Ibarra warns: “You lose credibility and effectiveness as a leader if you disclose everything you think and feel, especially  when you are unproven.”

A leader can  also be too egocentric for  his or her own good. An example of this is Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady. She grew more and more convinced of the rightness of her ideas and her coercive methods. Eventually, it was her undoing—she was ousted by her own cabinet.

At the Wharton Business School,  author and professor Stewart  Friedman  teaches a course called “Total Leadership.”

Friedman advises students on three key principles to help them  raise  their effectiveness:
1. Be real –  Act with authenticity
2. Be whole – Act with Integrity
3. Be innovative – Act with Creativity

In his book, Total Leadership (Harvard Businmess Press, 2008),

Friedman explained his authenticity principle this way: “Acting  with authenticity gives you the strength that comes from doing what you love, drawing  on the resources of your whole life, knowing that you are creating value for your self, your family, your business, your world.

“Effective leaders articulate a vision—a compelling image of an
achievable future—that inspires them and the people around them.”

Characteristics of authentic leaders

Writing in Forbes magazine,  Kevin Kruse shared many interesting insights on “what is authentic leadership?”

He observed that authenticity has been explored throughout history, from Greek philosophers to Shakespeare.

Different theorists have different slants on the concept, but most agree now that authentic leaders possess certain defining characteristics. Among these:

1. Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine. Authentic leaders are self-actualized individuals who are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. They also show their real selves to their followers. They do not act one way in private and another in public; they don’t hide their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. They also realize that being self-actualized is an endless journey, never complete.

2. Authentic leaders are mission-driven and focused on results. They are able to put the mission and the goals of the organization ahead of their own self-interest. They do the job in pursuit of results, not for their own power, money or ego.

3. Authentic leaders lead with their heart, not just their minds. They are not afraid to show their emotions, their vulnerability and to connect with their employees.

4. Authentic leaders focus on the long-term. They are focused on long-term gains for the nations they lead, and long-term shareholder value in the companies they lead.

A commanding presence, an authentic voice

What we miss most  in our contemporary leaders is  the commanding presence and authenticity of voice that used to define who should lead this country.

We miss people who did their best when it was tough to be the best, and who did right when heroic duty called.

Suzanne Fields has wryly observed that in contemporary times, “we’ve been inured to the slovenly private lives of public men, and maybe these times require attention to survival at the expense of dignity and decorum. The crucial test for a president is the test of whether the nation’s interests can be preserved and protected.”

A candidate cannot just parachute into Malacañang Palace without proving himself  or herself first in the crucible of politics and administration. The office will soon expose the fake they really are.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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13 Comments

  1. Nicely said about authenticity with factual basis. I agree…. this is journalism at its best.

    In the Philippine context of election, the “Friedman advice” should be used to measure the next leaders of our country in the President, VP, Senate, and Congress positions. Candidates for these positions must examine themselves if they are worthy, able, capable, with a passion for the welfare of the Filipino, innovative, and has the integrity to write and/or execute.

    Most of all, the candidates must examine themselves if they know and understand the Laws about “Bill of Rights” and “Philippine Constitution” which is the 101 of everything for the mentioned position.

    Otherwise, I hope that they still value the word “delicadeza” and retreat if they do not possess the characteristic of what true leaders are made of.

    At the end of the day, we need an authentic leader who can make our country proud.

  2. The good leaders will come if we had the right system. What kind of system allows only the rotten apples to rise to the top if not a hopelessly rotten system? Only a fool believes that this system is capable of reforming itself. How do we change the system? Is there another way besides a revolution?

  3. The legacy that Pinoy gave to this country are… He valued his friends so much to the point that it destroyed whatever accomplishment he made, Second. He is not a good manager. Third. He is the only president that did not make any money in his position. Fourth he is a stubborn person. He maybe a good guy but we cannot see and feel the warm and love of a good president.

  4. In theory, authenticity can be a good practice because it gives that welcoming feeling to your audience. But in the real world, I do not see any gain for a president by simply being authentic in his every word and action because I believe the public would be better served by keeping them less informed.

    The Freedom of Information bill for example, should become law even if Filipinos are not ready for it. Because the FOI is a tool that is significantly important for researchers and the academia, the public in general should however, have limited access to the FOI. Why? Because it will not serve them well if they found out that our national hero Jose Rizal did not really die in that fake execution in Luneta and that Rizal lived until he was well over 80 years old under a different identity. Will it benefit the Filipinos if they found out that the country they call home, the Philippines, is not their own, but by the colonizers under the International Law of the Seas. Will it benefit the public if they found out that Ferdinand E Marcos whose biological parents were both Chinese, who fled to the Philippines during the Chinese uprising and that the man they elected president was not a citizen of the Philippines.

  5. Richard S Stone on

    At last an article that does more than insult Ms. Poe, although not much more.

    In any event, “authenticity” is a fraud, based on an assumption about a underlying “real” but hidden or unrevealed “character,” and Socrates has it more right than the rest of the folks you cited.

    A persons “character” is not hidden. A persons character is meaningfully and well enough revealed by what they do. A person’s character is not what they think, or how they feel, although that might add some complexity to the evaluation or discussion, if, and only if, we could know the truth about, or of, such feelings and thoughts, which of course we cannot know. Thus all we can do is speculate beyond what we know.

    There was a book written about authenticity, The Authenticity Hoax, by Andrew Potter

    Review:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/review-the-authenticity-hoax-by-andrew-potter/article4315310/

    Which you might wish to consider.

  6. These four categories/ characteristic of an authentic leader all describes one candidate and it is Mayo Rodrigo Duterte! He falls under #1- He is self-aware and genuine, a self-actualized individual who is aware of his strengths, limitations, and emotions. He showed his real self to his followers. He does not act one way in private and another in public, #2- Mayor Duterte has proven himself to be mission-driven and focused on results. He is able to put his mission and the goals of the organization ahead of his own self-interest. He does his the job in pursuit of results, not for his own power, money or ego, #3 – He showed that he leads with his heart, not just his mind. He was not afraid to show his emotions, his vulnerability and to connect with his employees, and #4 – Mayor Duterte focuses on the long-term. He is focused on the long-term gains for his constituents who he leads. All the other candidates do not fully have the qualities of an authentic leader.

  7. ‘Some are born leaders, some achieve leadership, and some could’t lead a dog on a leash’
    After William Shakespeare

    Whilst leadership styles vary, the goals and characteristics of good leaders remain fairly consistent.

    I have adapted/extended Dave Ulrich’s model, which is simple and concise.
    – self-awareness, and exemplary/ethical standards.
    – the strategist – defining the future and building for the long term – innovation & transformation
    – the executor – making decisions & achieving results
    – the problem solver – the only constant is change itself, and a leader must adapt, and react as necessary. Flexibility is a strength.
    – the motivator & mentor – inspire & empower
    – the talent manager and team builder – investing in people
    – the communicator – honesty and authenticity
    – the politician – networking and facilitating
    – Shaping & reinforcing the culture. Excellence & continuous improvement.

    The Philippines clearly suffers from a raft of bad political leaders and poor business managers.

    A clue as to the reason why, lies in the work of IBM psychologist Geert Hofstede who conducted ground-breaking work on management and cultural differences worldwide. Interest in his work is being revived by corporates as multi-cultural teams becomes increasingly the normal way of national & international working, and as companies need to both increase productivity and spur innovation.

    Power/distance is one of the 6 Hofstede dimensions, and maybe most relevant to the subject of Philippine leadership.
    Simplistically, a high power distance culture is autocratic and people are subservient. Very hierachical, bureaucratic, and authoritarian. People readily defer without discussion or argument.
    A low power distance culture regards people as equals, and work is a collaborative process build upon discussion and respect.
    The Philippines has the 4th highest power distance index in the world at 94 compared to the US at 40. Very bad news.

    The impact of a high power distance ratio is little employee/individual empowerment, and therefore little creativity/innovation, and when people are not engaged then they are not motivated. It also results in poor problem solving and forward planning skills.

    Such environments/cultures are also at odds with the millenial generation who think differently, and expect more from a job, a boss, a company, and a government.

    Modern companies/corporates now have a new focus/agenda (some of it driven by regulatory threats rather than pure altruism)
    Diversity, inclusion, ethics, philanthropy, corporate & social resonsibility, talent management, cultural competences, unconscious bias, etc.
    Fundamentally companies know that they need to change, and change fast.
    There are no prizes for being slow.
    Big fish eat little fish.

    One barometer of the general quality of business leadership within a country is the GMAT scores which is a pre-requisite for MBA’s and executive training. It could be regarded as a scorecard on the future leadership potential of a nation.
    The GMAT test is scored between 200 and 800.
    Harvard students average/need 730 to gain a place.

    Some other scores for the top country MBA course:
    UK – 725
    India – 711
    Singapore – 702
    China – 692
    Australia – 680
    Vietnam – 660
    Philippines – 600 ( but not 1 MBA course ranked in Asia top 30)

    But, overall country averages:
    1. New Zealand (608)
    2. Singapore (605)
    3. Argentina (591) (tie)
    3. Belgium (591) (tie)
    5. United Kingdom (590) (tie)
    5. Australia (590) (tie)
    5. Austria (590) (tie)
    8. Uruguay (587)
    9. China (582)
    10. South Korea (581)

    India – 560
    Japan – 534
    US – 532 (placed 53rd)
    Vietnam – 504
    Philippines – 475

    The power distance culture, and low level management capability, will not create empowered, and motivated individuals, nor innovative and inclusive organisations.

    And you cannot expect a dynamic business environment with laissez faire government and incompetent political leaders.

    The Global Innovations Index shows how important innovation is in order to become a successful nation.

    2015 Global Innovations Index
    1. Switzerland
    2. United Kingdom
    3. Sweden
    4. Netherlands
    5. United States
    6. Finland
    7. Singapore
    8. Ireland
    9. Luxembourg
    10. Denmark

    52. Vietnam

    83. Philippines

    Additionally the number of global patents being registered in The Philippines is embarrassingly low. A sign of little product innovation in the pipe-line. The country cannot simply be a 3rd world low labor provider to others. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of permanent poverty.

    Bottom line – change in order to thrive, or ignore and simply survive.

    There is no place for feudal thinking in modern politics or insularity in international business.

    It starts at the top, and a losing team does not get rid of the players, but the manager – even Chelsea just fired their most successful manager – Jose Mourhino (The Special One)

    Maybe Congress/electorate should adapt the Jack Welch (ex CEO) approach at GE – every year give a bonus to the top 20%, and fire the bottom 10%.
    Life can be tough in corporates, but is too easy in politics.

    And when the Philippines has teacher pupil ratios (elementary school), which are truly staggering, it goes beyond even incompetence.
    Sweden – 10 pupils per teacher
    Malaysia – 12
    Hong Kong – 14
    Sungapore – 14
    Thailand – 16
    S Korea – 17
    UK – 18
    Vietnam – 19
    Indonesia – 19
    And at the bottom of the class:
    Ghana – 32
    Philippines – 36 ( highest ever recorded and worsened since 2010 – 31)
    Gambia – 36
    Congo – 37

    • Leodegardo Pruna on

      Good comparative study. At least, it brings out the sad reality that our business leaders only have themselves in mind (self serving) in running their businesses. Look at how they invest- more and more outside of the country rather than in the country. God bless the Philippines.

  8. Mr. Makabente,
    Well said, with your authentic views and comments on looking for authentic leader or leadership? They said vote for less evil candidate but I can’t who amongst them qualified to become authentic, to categorize each one of these presidential candidates no one deserve to be in malacanang including the present unauthentic president sitting in the palace with full of lies.But there is one authentic who is running not as president but for vice president, he has some of the qualifications mentioned, Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos is more authentic than the rest of presidential and vice presidential candidates, despite of all the critisisms, by leftists and unauthentic human rights groups from his alleged dictator father, he remained self aware and genuine in all his attitudes in presenting himself to mass media, with all bad controversies of his families from the past he remained victorious and fight for his political career then won.He is authentic and deserves to win this May 9, 2016 vice presidential election.

    • I totally agree with you. It’s a pity that Bongbong is only running for Vice President. His presence in the Senate is felt far more than his peers (without mentioning names) who only like to grandstand at every opportunity they can find but whose motives are pretty obvious. This is one person who, despite his family being maligned for their role in Philippine politics in the 80’s continued to impress the ‘thinking’ masses among us with his leadership in taking up issues of supreme importance to the Philippines as a whole. His platform of government is very much defined and his analysis of the ills (and solutions on how these should be addressed) of the present government puts those of our presidential candidates to shame.

    • You are absolutely right, You read my mind. Bong bong Marcos has all the characteristics of an authentic leader.

  9. Authentic leader is very rare…Jesus Christ is one of the few if not the only authentic leader. Mahathma Gandhi is another,