Posted by: chrismaser | May 13, 2010


One of the greatest gifts a leader can give their constituency is to be authentic. This means putting their theories and academic learning in the background and following their intuition—complementing their intellect with their inner spiritual core. To fully understand what I mean, I recommend that you watch the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

In the small town of Bedford Falls, as the story goes, lives a young man named George Bailey, who cannot wait to leave his hometown to see and conquer the world. But for one reason or another, he never leaves. Being altruistic in his outlook on life, he is other-centered and keeps passing up his chances to go to college and beyond.

Finally, however, facing bankruptcy just before Christmas, through no fault of his own, George decides that he is worth more to his family dead than alive because of his life insurance policy. He therefore tries to kill himself by jumping off a bridge into the river, but an angel, Clarence Oddbody, is sent to save him. Clarence, however, cannot convince George that his life has any value. Adamant that his life is worthless, George wishes he had never been born, and Clarence grants his wish.

To the townspeople, George never existed, so while he knows everyone, no one knows him. He sees how the town would have developed and how the people would have fared had he never been born. George finally sees and understands just how many lives the ripples of his actions have affected by his just being who he is—a simple man who never left his hometown, who never conquered the world. He was perfectly himself because of and despite all his personal foibles, which was all God asked of him—just to act as himself and to give what he could to the best of his ability, one day at a time.

It takes a great deal of courage to simply be yourself, and not everyone has such courage. Some people become so encrusted in a professional or political role they cannot tell where the role ends and the real person begins.

The other extreme is a leader who labors hard to demonstrate their humanness and in so doing overreacts and blurs any distinction between themselves as leader and the those who follow. If, as leader, you inappropriately discloses too much about yourself, you are stealing attention from your constituency in an act of self-fulfillment. Well then, you might ask, when is self-disclosure appropriate?

Disclosing persistent feelings that are directly related to the present transaction can be useful, even dutiful. For example, it would be both appropriate and dutiful to express your feeling that the townspeople do not have a clear sense of what they want a particular city park to be like and to help them clarify their vision of the desired outcome. But regardless of the circumstances, it is wise to always ask why you are revealing oneself, what purpose will it serve, and to what degree it is appropriate—remembering, of course, that you are not flawless in the sense of perfection.

Series on Leadership Challenges:

• The Challenges Of Leadership

• Dealing With Anxiety

• Use Of Power

• Criticism In The Form Of Projection

• Criticism And Your Image

• The Zen Of Perfection

• Honesty With Followers

• Understanding Silence

• Understanding The Need To Be Heard

• Establishing Your Boundaries

• Dealing With The Uncommitted

• Accepting Slow Or Delayed Results

• Learning Your Limits

Text © by Chris Maser, 2010. All rights reserved.

Protected by Copyscape Web Copyright Protection

This article is excerpted from my 1998 book, Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Development. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL. 235 pp. It is updated in my 2012 book, Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit my website.

If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: