Authentic Leadership

It was a good thing I was sitting in the row behind my daughters. They would have been mortified had they seen me taking notes.

We were at a campus visitation day for high school seniors and their parents at the University of Colorado at Boulder. For the next half  hour we would be treated to a sample lecture, given by Dr. Angela Thieman Dino, Ph.D., Professor, Presidents’ Leadership Institute.

Now, there were several reasons I decided to take notes during this lecture. First, this was the second college I had visited in as many days and, I’m telling you, I was ready to enroll. I was busy contemplating what to major in and which dorm or “village” would best suit my needs and interests. I wanted to see the list of on-campus student organizations and start signing up for various intramural teams. I was ready to ditch my vehicle and buy a brand new cruiser bike. I was ready to learn, baby!

And, since I’m a writer now, I thought I better take some notes just in case this turned out to be something I wanted to write about. If anyone asked me why I was taking notes, I would say, “I’m a writer” and hope they understood that that explained everything.

Plus, as this woman started to speak on this topic of authentic leadership, I realized that what she had to say might pertain to my life or my job, whether I stuck with my current reality or ended up quitting everything and matriculating.

Her lecture was on sincerity, which is subjective, versus authenticity, which is more measurable and objective. We can be sincere in what we’re doing–what we’re hoping to accomplish in life or on a short-term basis–but we may not be authentic. Authenticity involves proving ourselves, proving that we are somehow making a difference.

In my current life (I notice I keep referring to it as “my current life” as if next fall I’ll have a new life on campus), I could easily be sincere about wanting all of my students to learn to read at or above grade level. But I would be inauthentic if I couldn’t make that happen or was unable to prove, with evidence, that I had accomplished that goal.

There are three things to consider in the quest for authenticity:

1. Raw Materials  – information and awareness, the gaining of knowledge

There is so much raw material available (think Google).

2. Technique – imagination, critical thinking, problem solving design

This relates to how a person processes and interprets information and uses it innovatively.

3. Human Experience – transformation

Are you wondering if I had any idea what this lecture was really about? Are you concerned that this mumbo jumbo was the sample lecture and that the 17- and 18-year-olds were supposed to be excited about listening to it and digesting stuff like this for the next four years? Are you having trouble making sense of the notes I took and how I’m summing them up for you here? ME TOO! But, hang on, because I had a feeling that the professor would eventually hit home with some point or another and she did.

“Transformation is what college is all about. It’s about transforming yourself over and over and over again. And, it’s a blast!”

Back to the abstract stuff. We can be sincere, admirable, virtuous in our intentions, but maybe with no results whatsoever. Why?

1. We may be uninformed about our raw materials. We might not realize what all we have to work with or how to make the most of the resources we do have.

2. We may not be thinking as critically as we could or should be.

3. And, in the end, there may be no transformation whatsoever, and because of that we may just be strengthening or fueling the status quo or, even worse, the opposite of whatever our vision is, what we’re hoping to do.

Clear as mud, right?

It all makes sense to me. Maybe you had to be there. For me, it helped to take notes and to now write about these ideas. But I can see how this applies to being a college student, for sure, and how it makes sense in many facets of life.

Why, then, is there so much inauthenticity?

1. Authentic work takes money and resources.

A point the professor made is that a university campus is a place where money and resources are available, a place where those raw materials can be found, a place where students can find the resources they need to learn how to work in an authentic manner.

2. We all like to take the easy road. On a university campus, it’s not so easy to take the easy road. Most professors, and fellow students, too (if you’re hanging out with the right ones) will push you to go beyond being sincere. They’ll help you want it, want your work to be authentic. The network of people you develop at college will help you get on the right track and stay on track; it will insist that you challenge yourself and take the path that leads to authenticity.

I’m wondering if this lecture bored the high school seniors in the room. Inspired them? Scared the living daylights out of them? Were they concerned that all college lectures might be this nebulous? Perhaps, like me, they listened for and heard the main point and can’t wait to get started.

“Transformation is what college is all about. It’s about transforming yourself over and over and over again. And, it’s a blast!”

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Holistic Wayfarer
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 10:24:13

    Wonderful breakdown!


  2. theclocktowersunset
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 15:07:24

    Okay, I was amazed at what came out in this post today. Because midway through…..wait, let me start here. I had a polite and friendly yet extremely disturbing verbal conflict with an old friend today about an “article” they were promoting. Their intelligence exceeds mine in many capacities, think book research and sociology for the sake of this situation, not so much math and science per-say. I’ve always looked up to them, but today they fell from my grace, due to said article and their insistence that I wasn’t learned enough on the subject. I can understand the overall viewpoint but their inability to accept mine as valid I fear has created an impasse to the discussion, and a new definition to our relationship.
    When, I saw in the middle of your post, 1. 2. and 3. (the clear mud) Exactly what I was trying to express! Most notably (3). I do not believe these words will further my cause now, but it was precisely what needed to be said. Yes Randee it made perfect sense to me! Even with my head swirling about with emotions replaying the previous conversation over and over knowing I will never be able to return to the same position of respect I once held for my friend. Thank you, once again Randee I’m glad to read your words. Now where can a man get a drink around here? Hear-tell there’s a bartender roamin’ around these parts somewhere…. 😉


    • Randee
      Oct 30, 2013 @ 16:05:06

      Let me get my coworker because my bartending, well, it’s a lot like my cooking…

      Anyway, thanks for your feedback. Yah, that number three is huge, isn’t it? The professor gave an example of her and her anthropology students donated a few tractors in post-war Bosnia to help with farming. But the people over there either didn’t hear about the tractors (the raw material) or couldn’t think critically about how they might use them or how they might benefit from them. In the end, the donations went to waste and so the whole thing kind of backfired. They strengthened the status quo and actually sort of got the feeling that the people might be less receptive to the next attempt at help. Something like that anyway. The details are probably a little off.

      Being too informed, too learned (this friend of yours?), can definitely become a problem and result in a little narrowmindedness. I love it when I meet a “lay person” who easily talks about and applies such information to real life situations. Those people, to me, are the naturally intelligent people of the world. I have no idea if what I’m saying here goes with the situation you described.

      When’s your next post coming out?


      • theclocktowersunset
        Oct 30, 2013 @ 16:58:21

        I’ve been trying to set aside some creative time but it continually gets interrupted so that doesn’t work out very well. But I have some alone time this weekend, finally some peace and quite, hopefully I can get a little something done if not by then. Hey I got nominated for the versatile blogger award, you want in on some of the action? Hahahahaha 🙂

      • Randee
        Oct 30, 2013 @ 19:24:13

        I think I’m busy. I need to wash my hair or something.

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