I recently shared my thoughts on authentic leadership with 100 or so insurance professionals at the Women in Insurance Leadership Summit. Here is just a snippet of what I shared about authentic leadership:

Aligning values

Half way through my career I had a light bulb moment when I realised the work I was doing did not fit with my values.  I discovered I needed my character and my work to be aligned if I was to really enjoy my work.

It was this realisation that helped me land the leadership approach that really works for me:

Authentic Leadership = Leadership Character + Leadership Style

Character is who I am as a human being. Its derived from your values, beliefs and principles which are shaped by your unique experiences and the people that influence you throughout your life. Your character is what defines you as a person, the real you.

Style is based on the situation I’m in. We all need to be able to adapt depending on the context. Sometimes you need to be inspirational, sometimes you need to be directive or sometimes you need to be in coaching mode. The way you exercise leadership is driven by the environment you’re in and what is required in that moment, it takes into account what is at stake in any given situation.

As you move into more senior roles the situations become more complex and you often need to operate in the grey and your ability to adapt your leadership approach to each situation is important to being effective.

What is Authentic Leadership?

Truly becoming an authentic leader requires you to reflect on your experiences and the people who have influenced your character. You need to do this in an intentional and considered way to really understand it.

Life stories, the impact of the people that influence you and the way you respond to and deal with the crucible moments or turning points in your life, all shape your character.

Knowing who you are as a person, what’s important to you, what brings you meaning and why, what gives you satisfaction or energises you, is at the core of being an authentic leader.

It’s 100% about being authentic to your beliefs first, and then using that knowledge to guide your decisions and actions in alignment with who you are.  Its’ the fastest way to building open and connected relationships, and once you do that you start to build trust more readily.

I truly believe being an authentic leader is the single biggest ingredient to not only helping me be a leader that I can be proud of but more importantly it helps me enjoy what I do and keeps me motivated.

With Authentic Leadership as the foundation of my leadership approach I really do feel like the “truth that has set me free”. Starting with having a strong sense of who I am, I feel equipped to navigate the ups and downs of leadership in the corporate world with less stress, much more enjoyment and with a higher sense of purpose.

I’m more focused on the significant and positive impact I can have on the people and customers I serve each day rather than relying disproportionately on the extrinsic recognition that formal success on its own brings.

By reflecting on your own experiences, the people in your life and what gives you meaning, you can also start the journey to authentic leadership.

Chesne Stafford
Chief Distribution Officer