How to be a more 'authentic' IT leader

In today's digital workforce, it's not enough simply to manage. Workers are looking for authentic leadership.

By Sharon Florentine
Oct. 6, 2016


"We want to focus on the people who can develop these leadership capabilities faster than others -- finding individuals who are just hard-wired to adapt well to change, who have the intellect, the motivation, the communication and interpersonal skills -- and looking at their current capabilities and their potential. Then we work on their education, building their expertise through experiences and their exposure to different scenarios. These are the most powerful ways we've found to develop authentic leadership,"

Doing so is more like a marathon, though, than a sprint, and it often takes time and long-term investment to reap the benefits, Abbatiello says. If potential is the speed at which individuals can acquire and apply new knowledge, then capability is like a muscle that can be trained and developed to perform at its highest level -- but that level is different for each person, he says.

"I used to run marathons in my 20s. What I quickly learned is that no matter how hard I trained, there were always runners out there with a more optimal biological and genetic predisposition than I had. I was great at the level of being a 10K runner, but at the marathon level, not so much. But recognizing that, like recognizing people's strengths and weaknesses in leadership, is a huge step toward authenticity," Abbatiello says.

It also means having the foresight to understand when high-potential talent has to gain experience and exposure outside your organization rather than within.

"Understanding that potential and capability can be developed both inside the organization -- maybe by running a global organization, by focusing on product development, leading the transformation of a division -- or externally, by working with institutional investors, by moving to other industries, investigating innovations outside your space. Sometimes you have to let high-potential leadership talent go just so they can come back," he says.

The long game of leadership

As millennials and Generation Z flood the workplace, authentic leadership is going to become even more important for organizations looking to hire and retain the next generation of talent. Businesses should start now to engage in ongoing dialogues and open communication about the need for authenticity and how the workers of today can become the leaders of tomorrow, says Bruce Tulgan.

"These are the emerging norms that are going to drive workforce management and organizational culture going forward. Given that this is the new reality, you have to look at your organization's behaviors, norms and expectations and make changes now to account for that or risk being left behind," Tulgan says.

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