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June 12, 2009

“Demand the genuine article; accept no substitutes!”  We often assume that authentic leadership has a timeless quality that withstands the most intense scrutiny.

Effective leaders understand that their efforts to measure the performance of their organizations, whether in quantitative or qualitative terms, sheds a spotlight on themselves.  Try as we may to set the standards by which our performance or that of the organization is measured without making it personal, the expectations of others are the only tests that truly matter.

Bob Johansen, senior fellow at the Institute for the Future, and author of the book Leaders Make the Future, discusses the increasing demand for transparency arising from the emergence of social media and ubiquitous technology (pp. 101-112).   His observations suggest a need for caution both on the part of those being measured and those doing the measuring, which means all of us really.

His insights inspired me to reflect on the best way for leaders to protect ourselves from judgments we consider too harsh, misleading, unjustified, or simply unwarranted.  Try as we may to appreciate situations from others’ perspectives, we can never fully appreciate their underlying perceptions or intentions, nor they ours.

As such, avoiding any temptation to jump to hasty conclusions when it comes to our assessments of the decisions and actions of others may not only be our best protection, but also our only reasonable option.  In a world filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, exercising tolerance and temperance in our judgments affords everyone an opportunity to look for ways to improve performance rather than place blame or take credit for themselves.

Authentic leadership opens people up to opportunities to achieve their potential.  Genuine quality follows from the commitment we get from people when they know our pursuit of performance does not come at their expense.

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