Authentic Leadership in Action

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A successful leader is not expected to do it all on his own. He is expected to delegate responsibility and to be able to take counsel. Indeed, success is often achieved as a result of the leader’s ability and willingness to take advice.

The responsible exercising of leadership then includes the ability to take counsel, discern which counsel is appropriate to the issue and which is not, to construct a choice, and then to make a decision on the issue.

Good leaders may have an array of advisors of varying knowledge, experience and capacity who are able to advise on the many different parameters involved in the choice the leader has to make. It does not serve the leader to be surrounded by a group of “yes-men.” It will serve the leader and the community he is leading to have within the group of advisors people who may argue against his ideas, as well as those who are generally supportive of those ideas. The advisors respect the fact that it is the person in the role of leader who ultimately makes the final choice.

The Cuban missile crisis was an example of such leadership in action.

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In 1963, President John F. Kennedy had to deal with an issue of significant international importance: the installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba by the Soviet Union. Cuba was “America’s backyard.” Had the installation been completed, nuclear missiles would have been within range and directly aimed towards many major cities in the United States.

During this critical time when the world seemed to flirt with the real possibility of nuclear war and self-destruction, President Kennedy was embroiled in meetings with his advisors, broaching the question of how best to respond to this crisis. His advisors ranged from military generals, civilian political advisors, to his brother Robert Kennedy, a staunch supporter of his brother’s policies.

The majority of advice JFK received believed the remedy to the problem was a first-strike against the missile sites in Cuba. The premise was to stand tough, show you mean business, and hope the enemy, like all bullies, backed down. This advice risked confrontation between two nations loaded to the teeth with nuclear weaponry. If the Soviet Union did not back down an all-out war between these two super-powers seemed an inevitability. The majority of Kennedy’s advisors, hot on the heels of the Second World War and the Korean War, believed passionately in firing the first shot over negotiated diplomacy. Such a decision they believed, would then give the military the power to take the matter into their hands, allowing them to prevent trauma from this form of aggression occurring again – in the way they knew how.

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President Kennedy heard this advice, disagreed with the risk involved in a first strike, listened to the few who advocated a diplomatic solution and chose a compromise solution: a naval blockade of Cuba. A military option would only be exercised if the Soviet Union’s ships carrying the nuclear weapons crossed the imposed military blockade. This put the onus upon the Soviet leaders and allowed them the time to consider their options. As well, the United States held a stance that clearly indicated their unwillingness to allow the Soviets to proceed with this form of aggression.

The choice Kennedy made reflected all of the counsel received and his own personal belief: hope and conviction in negotiated solution wherever and whenever possible.

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We all possess leadership qualities. While none of us is John F. Kennedy each one of us possess the leadership skills JFK used during the thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We all have the Presence and Leadership capable of making choices for our own well-being and welfare. (Read more on Leadership)

When we hold Authentic Self and exercise choices current and appropriate to the situation before us, we are present and therefore holding and sustaining Presence. In Authentic Self, we are better able to recognize the potential for old coping mechanisms to take over. Rather than give our authority solely over to these older ways of coping, we step back and take the time to consider them. That is, we acknowledge them as one of group of advisors we have among the many internal advisors we have in our employ, and we consider their form of coping as an option next to other forms of coping. (Read more on the Authentic Self); (Read more on internal advisors)

 This is the Authentic Self experience – the natural leadership each of us was born with.

You have just read an excerpt from Pietro Abela’s forthcoming book, A Return to Consciousness

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Join me next Friday for a continued discussion of Presence, Authenticity, and the emergence of your inherent Leadership abilities.

I wish you well

Pietro

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