Challenges for Emerging Leaders: Bringing the authenticity back into Leadership

Nov 1, 04

This Month

Poet Galway Kinnell in his lovely poem, “St. Francis and the Sow” says:
The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers from within, of self-blessing

though sometimes it is necessary
to re-teach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on the brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing

Take the time out to nurture the buds inside you and those around you. Seek authenticity, strive to be authentic.

In the process, I’d be delighted if you could write to me and let me know how I’m doing. What would you like to read?

I look forward to your feedback at

Thank you,

Jigyasa (

Challenges for Emerging Leaders: Bringing the authenticity back into Leadership

Consider the following situations:
Steve Gomo, a mid level manager was asked to present the capital budget to the Hewlett-Packard Board of Directors because the executive who normally did it was not available at that time. Both Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were known to be tough taskmasters. During the meeting, while Gomo did a great job, he also ended up disagreeing with Hewlett on a process followed in handling financial data. At the end of the presentation, the only thing Gomo wanted to do was gather his papers and exit as quickly as possible. Just before he left, Packard stood up and said “I want it recorded in the minutes of the meeting that this was one of the best presentation on capital budget that this board has ever received,” shaking Gomo’s hand.
Gomo, glowing inside, made his exit, shares this about that incident. “There was no reason for Packard to do that-except to make a young kid feel good. I will never forget that as long as I live.”
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks got a call in the middle of the night that three of his employees had been murdered in a botched robbery in Washington, DC. Stunned, he immediately chartered a plane and arrived in DC before nine that morning. He personally took charge of the situation, stayed for a week, visiting the store, working with the police, meeting with the victims’ families, attending the funerals.
Sridhar, CEO of XID Technologies Pte Ltd has this to say about one of his former bosses at Siemens in Germany, “he used to speak with each and every of his 800 employees between 1st December and Christmas to understand them holistically – and solve a few of their personal problems during the year. People were ready to go through troubled times with him due to the ‘trust’ he had created, always accepting if he made a mistake and working towards a common goal. From the gate-keeper to CEO, all the employees were IP focused and created more than 3800 patents and commercialized about 1000 of them.”
What is common to all these leaders?
How would a colleague or subordinate speak of you today?
What would you do any of the above situations?
Great leaders are authentic. They have a genuine interest in the people around them and take the trouble to understand the problems, concerns and challenges. They practise value based leadership.

What can individuals do to develop themselves as authentic Leaders?

Authentic leadership calls for a high degree of introspection. It calls for an open mind, spending time with others to understand their needs, standing true to your values and above all it means having the conviction to follow your heart.

Bill George, Former CEO of Medtronic and author of Authentic Leadership shares the following challenges that pose emerging leaders in his book:

What’s the purpose of my leadership?
Do I have to check my values at the office door?
Is it possible to have a meaningful career and a successful family life? Is it worth it to work so hard?
How can I stay true to my values when there are so many pressures to compromise?
How do I balance the conflicting needs of my customers and my employees with the requirement to make the bottom-line numbers?
Can I develop close relationships with my subordinates and still achieve my objectives?
None of the above questions have easy answers but nonetheless they need to be answered to move towards more authentic leadership.
“There are no given, automatic meanings in human life. We human beings must create whatever goals we will pursue.” James Park says.

Start now, Start with yourself. For, if not me, then who? If not now then when?

The corollary of the well known adage, “You join a company but leave a boss” is truer than ever before. When you are not able to figure out where your company is headed, when the senior leadership seems to be floundering, you stay on because of your boss!

What are great organizations doing to develop Authentic Leadership?

Medtronic, seventh among the top 20 US companies for Leaders in 2003 according to a Hewitt Survey, has two kinds of leadership programmes to solidify the Medtronic values. A Medtronic Values and Ethics Seminar, focused on great books and the discussion of modern ethical issues and a programme for high talent managers ‘The Medtronic Leader’. It focuses on leadership from the heart and developing the qualities of a leader.
Nestlé won this year’s best International Company for Leadership development. Its CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe credits it to the talent his company nurtures. “We want to make sure that employees at all our regional companies maintain their original cultures, but follow the same Nestlé principles”. According to him, “the most important, fundamental reason for having the training centre is to use it as a platform for conveying the values and the principles of Nestlé’s leadership.”
At Home Depot, the store-leadership programme involves two years of structured curriculum and rotation in various divisions every four months to combine hands-on experience and core classroom learning. According to Chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli, “Leadership development is the way you act, something you do every day.”

Further Reading


Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value by Bill George
Leading Up, How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win by Michael Useem


It also has excellent resources on Leading up, articles and sample chapters from the book, Leading Up.


Best 20 companies for leaders
The Top 20 Companies for Leaders: CEOs explain how they got on the list – and why they’re likely to stay there – Cover Story
Taking Charge: Vision and Heart by Bill George
The Stranded self, How business squeezes the meaning out of work by Charles Handy (PDF)


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