The 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership

Many people have written on what it means to be a leader. Almost everyone identifies influence as the primary characteristic. By definition, this means that leadership and position are two different things. You can have a title, and a position of power, but this does not mean that you are a leader. Even people without these things can exert influence and thus leadership.

Business man stripped to his shorts and jumping off a dock - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/PeskyMonkey, Image #11582459

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/PeskyMonkey

But leadership is more than influence. It certainly includes influence, but it is more. I believe it includes at least five characteristics. When I speak on this topic, I call these “the five marks of authentic leadership”:

Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast

I awoke this morning to the dragon’s hot breath on my face. I was disoriented, not quite knowing where I was. I struggled to open one eye. Then another.

An Icon of St. George

And there he was. A dragon. A very big dragon. With three heads. Sitting in my bedroom, like so many mornings before, he was waiting. His heads swerved back and forth, dancing in the dim light. Each head alternately belching fire and hissing smoke.

Embrace Permanent Beta and Launch

A while back, I met with a friend who is a blogger. She has been blogging for a few years, but her blog is in desperate need of a facelift. It has grown a little “long in the tooth,” as they say. I have been meaning to speak to her about his, but she brought it up herself.

The Last Flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Neutronman, Image #19528606

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Neutronman

“I am redesigning my blog,” she mentioned. She then showed me a prototype. I was flabbergasted. It looked … great! It was a hundred times better than what she currently has.

Why You Aren’t Dead Yet

Several weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. He had just turned eighty years old. His mind was as sharp as ever—witty, inquisitive, and focused. He was also a great listener. When he did speak, wisdom dripped from his lips like honey.

After reading this blog post, Greg Surrant, Senior Pastor of Seacoast Church, decided to preach a sermon series on the topic. His creative team produced the video above to promote the series.

In a point of genuine humility but uncertainty he asked me, “Michael, do you think I have anything left to contribute? Are my best days over?” Tears welled up in his eyes.

Why Vision Matters Now

I originally wrote the following article as part of What Matters Now, a free eBook that Seth Godin created and compiled a few years ago. However, I think it may be more relevant now than ever. What do you think? Leave me a comment at the end of this post.

Vision is the lifeblood of any organization. It is what keeps it moving forward. It provides meaning to the day-to-day challenges and setbacks that make up the rumble and tumble of real life.

Window Cleaner Using a Squeegee to Wash a Window - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BrianAJackson, Image #19515449

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BrianAJackson

In a down economy—particularly one that has lasted so long—things get very tactical. Most are just trying to survive. What worked yesterday does not necessarily work today. What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow. Decisions become pragmatic.

#012: The 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership [Podcast]

In this podcast episode, I talk the essence of authentic leadership. What is it? Is it simply influence or is it something more.

012 - The 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership

I have always been fascinated by this topic. Perhaps because I enjoy creating models that try to explain something people want to know about.

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How Your Life Is Like a Tapestry

A few years ago, I had breakfast with an old college roommate. We hadn’t seen each other in twenty-two years. To my surprise—and delight—he looked almost exactly as he did the last time I saw him. The only difference was that his blond hair was mostly gray.

A Beautiful Tapestry - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/InCommunicado, Image #4413064

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/InCommunicado

We spent an hour or so eating and reminiscing. We talked. We laughed. And we listened.

How Penguin Leadership Will Change Your Team Culture

This is a guest post by Sean Glaze, a team speaker and motivator. You can check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

What do penguins have to do with leadership and changing your toxic team culture? More than you realize.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mlenny

The power of a few can influence the behavior of many. Leadership, as John Maxwell suggests, is really nothing more than influence.

How Leadership at Home Affects the Rest of Life

I am mostly offline, attending a business conference. I have asked several bloggers to post in my absence. This is a guest post by John G. Miller, author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question. You can visit his website and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Have you ever heard—or asked—questions like these at work? “Who dropped the ball?” “Why can’t that department do its job right?” “When will we find good people?”

These questions lead us into the dangerous traps of blame, victim thinking, and procrastination—ones that leaders work hard to avoid while on the job.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/jhorrocks

But what if the person asking these questions was also a parent and later returned to their family, asking: “Who made the mess in here?” “Why won’t he ever listen to me?” “When will my spouse help out more?”