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.