Authentic Leadership: Being True to Your Mission
at the Crossroads of Change
By R. Mark Davis
The organic sector has long prided itself
on its use of Triple Bottom Line (3BL)
accountability metrics to differentiate its
products and services in the marketplace. As
the industry continues to grow at double-digit
rates, and new and better-financed companies are entering the sector touting the use of
3BL, have we let the role of “Authentic
Leadership” of our businesses slip? Do we
have leadership or mentoring training programs in place for the next generation of
leaders? Are we being true to mission?
With competitive pressure to “make the
numbers,” is the sector losing sight of its values to lead businesses that are truly good for
everyone as well as the planet? The challenge
to know, show and remain true to one’s real
self has never been greater. People who look
for jobs in our sector are looking for authentic leaders who are genuine, transparent and
trustworthy—leaders who are “real” and can
be counted on to keep their word.
Ultimately, it is up to us to develop and
promote a comprehensive authentic leadership agenda for the sector to produce verifiable and sustainable gains in business performance while remaining true to the spirit
of our organic mission.
Leadership success is often measured by
our mastery of revenues, profits, new product
breakthroughs, cost savings or market share
increases. These results are important but
defining leadership by these external criteria
misses the core question: What leadership
traits or actions occurred that enabled this
success and achievement?
Leadership is not simply a set of rules to
run our business by, it is a process and a man-
ifestation of who we are in action. At its highest level, leadership is authentic ethical self-expression that creates value. Webster defines
ethics as “the basic principles of right action”.
In his seminal book, True North, author Bill
George says authentic leaders usually demonstrate these five traits:
1. Pursuing their purpose with passion
2. Practicing solid values
3. Leading with their hearts as well as heads
4. Establishing connected relationships
5. Demonstrating self-discipline
Using this framework there are three questions we must ask ourselves: How true are we?
How genuine is our self-expression? Are we
Authenticity is the cornerstone of leadership. How do we express ourselves with
actions that come from within ourselves? It is
true, as Steve Demos, founder of Silk, has
publicly stated, “you can be an authentic dictator, but what value are you creating with
this style of leadership?”
Being a leader often makes us think we
always have to be right, and have to know all
the answers. But when we acknowledge our
mistakes, and ask for help from our co-workers we are frequently rewarded with support.
It’s all about being real. The web of interdependence that supports our success requires
us to acknowledge others. It is through this
synergy that together everyone achieves
more, giving the word “team” the highest
To be an authentic leader, there are several key steps.
First: “Know thyself.” Become effective
with yourself and you will be effective with