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    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Authentic Leaders

    If we could put our fingers to the pulse of the upcoming generations need from leaders, I believe it would beat over and over again the word: Authenticity. This generation is crying out for real, raw transparent leadership and if leaders leave this on the side of the road and treat it as if it is another "meaningless leadership fad" they will begin to lose ground with this generation.

    I contend that the reason Barack Obama was able to sway this generation to his side and cause a polling frenzy of the younger voters was because to them he was being real. He found this deep desire in the younger voters, that of authentic leadership and pounded that idea into his campaigns, answering honestly questions that were skirted around by prior candidates. (See my Blog on Obama Here)

    Who really wants to follow a phony who doesn't admit when he has done something wrong? Being authentic is admitting when you've messed up, it's asking forgiveness for those mistakes and it's holding others to a standard of authenticity as well. This upcoming generation is fed up with phony leaders everywhere: in the church, in politics, and in major corporations, they are done with the fake and desire real, raw authenticity.

    This poses a huge problem for most leaders, because they've been trained to have the answers and be strong, confident and have no weak links in their armor. Even as pastors, we've been trained to share self very little and when we do, share a success story, not a failure story.

    Leaders everywhere must un-learn this training in some respects if they ever expect people of this younger generation to follow them for the long haul (or for that matter assist them with their bottom line by continuing to support their products). Leaders must learn the ancient art of repentance and confession, a lesson that sadly even we pastors struggle with on a large scale.

    Many leaders I’ve been following recently have found this pulse and are using it exceptionally well. They are open and honest with their staff, they are willing to admit their own mistakes, they are willing to take risks and are willing to not hide behind certain masks to get ahead. Some of these leaders are: (Church) Mark Driscoll; (Corporate) Larry O’Donnell III; (Non-Profit) Rich Stearns. They are unafraid to be real and raw about themselves and admitting their mistakes and failures.

    Authenticity will prove to be a vital reality for the generations to come as well. Research done by the Barna Group (found in the book UnChristian) is a real slap with reality on this issue. Fake is out; real is in. People won’t follow, or assign themselves to a group of people who are not willing to live authentically.

    Authentic living is an arduous task but I am convinced taking on that task will not only transform the leaders, but the people who follow them as well as the products they produce. When a follower can trust a leader implicitly, they will follow full heartedly and when a consumer can trust the leader of products they buy, brand loyalty will sky-rocket to new heights like never seen before.


    Anonymous said...

    I agree.

    Sadly, many leaders do not which makes me wonder, what is the reason behind the "cover up?"

    I've spent many years wondering what authentic, honest leadership looks like and I vascilate between craving raw honesty and wanting leaders who have it more together than I do.

    I think that is the catch. Why follow someone who is just as screwed up as the next person? If leadership everywhere "let it all hang out," what would be the inspiration? Why follow in the first place?

    I'm playing a sort of devils advocate but this is the reasoning I've heard after years of asking for authenticity in leadership. And it makes sense...sort of.

    I mean, it doesn't work. It's obviously not effective to pretend you have it together when you don't but I don't think laying out all your struggles is all together helpful either.

    What is the alternative? I don't know but I have a slight leaning toward the belief that the level of "required" transparency should allign with the type of leadership you are involved in.

    In Student Ministries...the type of authenticity would be different than the Sr. Pastors. Authenticity as an executive in corporate America would be different than Obama's authenticity. (side-note: Obama appeared transparent. I think we can safely now say it was an act.)

    That may seem too subjective but, it's the best I've come up with. Keep writing!


    Marv Nelson said...

    There is a line in which leaders can't digress into all their junk with their followers. I do say they need all leaders need a place to be real though. They need a Jonathan they can confess to about everything in their lives. Leaders of all people must be dilligent in seeing the junk in their lives, hearts and minds so they can allow God to do his surgery on their hearts. Christ died so we can put sin to death and live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). I am so passionate about this topic that I wrote a book on it! It's so vital.

    I also in part agree with you about Obama. He did put on an act in some ways, but he has been true to his word about Obamacare...he pushed it through, albeit by browbeating and stupid rhetoric. I am been unhappy with him in many ways.

    Thanks for the great discussion!

    Anonymous said...

    "They are open and honest with their staff, they are willing to admit their own mistakes, they are willing to take risks and are willing to not hide behind certain masks to get ahead. Some of these leaders are: (Church) Mark Driscoll..."

    LOL ! ! !

    <a href="http://welovemarshill.com><b>welovemarshill.com</b></a>

    Anonymous said...


    Marvin Nelson said...

    I once idolized Mark Driscoll, obviously 4 years ago, when I wrote this it was still the case. I've since read and re-read much of the welovemarshill.com stuff and know he's not as authentic (at all) as he would have one believe he is. The fact that he didn't have the balls enough to post some stuff on the early church website as himself proves his divided and diluted reality. Thanks for posting this!