3 core principles for being an authentic leader

"Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers." Voltaire

Einstein alluded to the importance of asking questions. That is where the greatest learning can occur: whilst pondering the possible responses and solutions.

So it was delightful when a psychology student from Princeton raised this question:  "Based on all you have learned about leadership, what 3 things might you most likely emphasize if asked by the coach of your favorite professional sports team to share with him or her your favorite practical strategies for being a great leader? I understand that each situation is unique but interested in what you usually find most helpful."

She certainly inspired me to put together a thoughtful response that was relevant to leadership in general, but could equally apply to sports leaders in particular. This is more or less how I replied.
"Yes, leadership is contextual. Yet, if you have noticed, I am particularly interested in how great leadership in the home has uncanny parallels to awesome leadership in business or community organisations: Leadership lessons from the home front I can definitely see the same 3 core principles of a quality leader would be relevant in high performing sports teams too.

So, in a nutshell, the 3 key practical strategies I would emphasize to the coach of my favourite professional sports team are the so-called A-B-C core principles of leadership:

1. Authenticity. Be aware of self.  Know your self enough, and show your self enough - appropriate to the context. In other words, 'Be YOURSELF MORE with SKILL'.  This is discussed in video snippets, articles and book Professors Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones I have re-posted a summary in my blog Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? This not only involves understanding your strengths, values, origins - but also your vulnerabilities. Showing your vulnerabilities (enough - this is NOT the Jerry Springer show!)  can help your team step up to significance to support you. It can bring out the best in them. eg as a coach, you can certainly  demonstrate to them your strength of observation from a distance that an athlete in flow may be hard to do. Yet, you can admit that they have the physique and skill that is beyond you - hence, they are running the race - and not you!

2. Being present. Be aware of others, and come in early a partner: Understand the needs of your team, and meet them authentically, without compromising your Vision or Values. You can only excite them to exceptional performance if they feel you are on the same page as they are, and you have the ability to help them step up to significance towards a common purpose and compelling vision. Learn what makes your team tick, what gets them satisfied, what is meaningful to them - and help them meet these.... and you will have a team with an inner burning desire to go to the ends of the Earth for what YOU believe. Come in early as a partner on a mutual journey - not late as a judge. See the small business equivalent in this video: Being present: Influencing through engagement

3. Communicate clearly and constantly. Be highly observant and flexible. There are two things that can let us down as leaders. Our preconceived ideas of how things should be - and therefore have scotomas to what does not fit. Hence, first we need to 'lose our minds' - get flexible and loosen our way of thinking - be open to possibilities. Then, 'come to our senses' - use our eyes, ears, feelings, taste and smell astutely in changing circumstances - and communicate clearly ways to action what is in our minds. ie Read the context carefully, and step back to all possible options, and act on one that seems most appropriate. If it does not achieve the outcome you desire, be flexible. Do something else.  Simply, constantly lose your mind to come to your senses! Have a look at how Sir Ken Robinson has communicated to change the education paradigm: Lose Your Mind to Come to Your senses: Change Education Paradigm

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results" Einstein

Learning partnerships occur when a curious individual has the courage to ask questions. This is when we (even the so-called experts) can 'lose our minds' to other possible futures and then 'come to our senses' to embark on the adventure of discovering alternate ways (usually considered innovative) of doing the usual things. Paradoxically, it is usually the seemingly simple questions that demand the deepest thought.That's why the younger and so-called 'greener' ones of our tribe that have some of the best questions, and insights! Check out learning from an unexpected quarter from the home front: Parent leadership - creating learning partnerships

Thanks for asking this question. It gave me an opportunity to learn finer distinctions in another context.

So, when was the last time you chose to ask an ordinary question to stimulate an extraordinary exploration of a new future? Focus on getting a few meaningful things right Let me know your thoughts.