Listening to the Leader Within

When I wrote my first muse for the newsletter on leadership in February, I was in the midst of a four-month course focused on authentic leadership at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Having completed the program in May, I wanted to share a few lessons that I learned on what it means to be an authentic leader. Everyone can be an authentic leader, whether you’re running an organization, a team, or a household; working for change in your community; or simply aspiring to live by example.

Authentic leaders are people who take fundamental responsibility for themselves and their lives, are completely present in every situation, and are willing to share their aspirations and dreams with others.

The authentic leadership model consists of three components:

Authentic presence means making sure your authentic self is fully present. Try contemplative practices such as yoga, meditation, and journal writing to develop self-knowledge and to practice being present and authentic. (Thank goodness these practices are already part of my routine, and are part of the TranquilTeens program, as I already had so many new things to try coming out of this program!)

Skillful communication begins with the assumption that we are fully responsible for all interactions. Awareness of our emotions creates an environment of care and empathy akin to emotional intelligence. My teachers emphasized two important ways to communicate: inquiry and advocacy. Inquiry is a powerful way to invite others to be collaborators. Advocacy is a way to use “I” statements to convey how one perceives a situation and shares facts.

Effective action is motivated by service and focuses on using compassionate and strategic approaches to change. This final premise of the authentic leadership model is based on servant leadership where the leader seeks to serve first and lead second.

Overall, an authentic leader is motivated to serve, invites feedback and learns from it, promotes open communication, envisions new possibilities, fosters a culture of appreciation, and is committed to self-knowledge. I loved this four-month program—especially its contemplative slant—and hope that we are able to continue affecting authentic leadership through our efforts with Tranquil Space Foundation. We hope that we are helping to shape a new generation of do-gooding, creative, authentic leaders! Namaste.