Byrd Baggett

In your opinion, what does it take to become an authentic leader who people want to follow?

"I think you need to know your staff as individuals, and listen to their needs and determine their individual strengths. You then assimilate them into an effective team with clearly defined roles built around their strengths. As a leader, you help them achieve excellence by listening and assisting them and clearing the roadblocks, and give them due credit and rewards. Leaders will give guidance and set a good example and build trust. In the end, it is effective, persevering teamwork that achieves greatness."

Scott Smith, Director of Environmental Planning, CPS Energy

"A clear and well communicated message of where the team is headed, passion for teaching the objective, confidence to be surrounded by people with more skill in certain disciplines than the leader, and humble enough to help obtain results, not just expect results."

Kirk Bailey, President, Magna Bank

"While this is not original, I believe very strongly in the three questions relayed by football coach Lou Holtz. In one of his books, he states that there are three questions everyone asks them selves about you:

  • Can I trust him?
  • Is he committed to excellence?
  • Does he care about me?

I believe these sum up the qualities that must be demonstrated by any authentic leader."

David Moore, President & CEO, Shelter Insurance

"Here are my thoughts on what leadership skills cause others to want to follow:

  • True passion and genuine interest in others.
  • Vested interest in their success.
  • Willingness to share knowledge and promote synergy.

A good leader has an open ear, promotes individual growth and conveys clear messages."

Arthur Emerson, President, GRE Creative Communications

"Authentic Leaders are more about personal power and less about position power. I have more respect and tend to follow leaders who because of their personal power raise the position up as opposed to the position raising the person up. The quote in question is, "what happens to the person who is only about the position when the position is taken away, eliminated, or lost?"

Authentic leaders as opposed to those who are not, get their team to connect to the reality of effort, performance, conversation, trust, integrity and ultimately the reality of results. If authentic leadership is not present, you get the reality of "Game Face" which functions somewhere below the reality of effort, performance, conversation, trust, integrity, and results. The most powerful observation of what it takes to become an authentic leader is, "regardless of the circumstances, bias, stereotype, unfairness, and financial challenges, authentic leaders never ever view themselves as a victim."

Michael Matlock, Agency Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer, State Farm Insurance

"Authentic leadership comes from servant ship; from caring about others and inspiring them to want to have a positive relationship with you. The best example I can give you is what I learned from the late Mary Kay Ash. She said that whenever she greeted another person, she imagined a sign around their neck that said, "Make me feel important today." This creates the Power of Attraction; attracting others to share in your values, ideas, goals, and passions."

Gary Welch, Agent, State Farm Insurance

"Trust is the key to any effective team. The leader can only build trust by being open and honest. If a leader is vulnerable, they gain a deeper level of commitment than can ever be gained by position power alone. Effective leaders truly know themselves and open that up to those they work with. They genuinely care about people and that caring comes through in consistent and predictable actions. The rewards are well beyond effective performance."

Paul Smith, Senior Vice President, State Farm Insurance

"Just finished reading a Lou Holtz autobiography and in the last paragraph of the epilogue he says, "I don't want to be known for the successes I had as a coach or as a public speaker, because success dies. Significance, which is helping others to better their lives through word and deed, lasts forever." The only thing I hope is that when I die someone says, "That Lou Holtz was significant to a lot of people." It is the best thing that can be said of a person and I hope it will be said of me."

Jack Pryor, President, Colgen

"This is any easy one for me. Trust earned by open and honest communication coupled with consistency of mission and purpose is what it takes to be an authentic leader."

Chris Williston, President, Independent Bankers Association of Texas

"Daniel Goleman, in his book Primal Leadership, states, "Self-aware leaders also understand their values, goals, and dreams. They know where they're headed and why." I agree and have personally observed that leaders I consider exceptional have a compelling life mission driving them forward, of which their 8-10 hours in the office each day represents a relatively small part. Authenticity demands we in leadership roles be mission oriented, transparent, relational individuals who see quality human interaction as critical to achieving desired outcomes."

Tony Budet, President & CEO, University Federal Credit Union

"One of my best interviewing questions of future leaders is, "why do people follow you?" The point of the question is that many good leaders have never thought about the answer. Authentic leaders are people of integrity who have vision, passion, and a genuine belief in the people they lead. They are unselfish in their giving to others and to their task or mission. Leadership is not about the leader. It is about getting things done through people."

Tom Coffey, Vice President, Penn Mutual Life Insurance

"I haven't found a man yet that I'm willing to lie for and that includes my husband and two sons."

Jessica Bailey, Ph.D

"It requires compassion, honesty, sacrifice and, most importantly, open mindness. People will see right through a fake leader. You simply can't fake leadership. It is an evolution that begins from the first time people trust us enough to place their lives into our hands. People need to know that you care about them, not just their careers but their entire well being.

It takes one on one interaction, open communication and personal vulnerability. They will not follow you if they do not trust you. They will trust you if you are open, vulnerable, and real. If you are fake, they may act like they are following you but they will never go out of their way to help you succeed.

It takes selflessness. A leader must always put the people they lead first and in the forefront of your personal success. If they are right, you must be willing to fight a circle-saw to defend them. You must be willing to give them "all" of the credit "all" of the time, not just "some" of the time. We must never take credit for the work someone else does.

I once had a one on one meeting with an exceptional employee. It was her meeting, not mine, and I told her that. I wanted to know how she was doing and was everything ok? She said, "Cliff, I can't afford the health insurance for my six year old son that the company needs me to pay. I need to move in with my mother so I can find a way to pay for his insurance." I swiftly took action and searched the internet for assistance. I found the Texas "Chips" program that helps single mothers afford insurance for their children. Last I heard, she is still a shining star at the company and she has insurance for her son.

What did I learn? Had I not taken the time to ask her how she was doing, I would have lost a good employee and friend. I did not inquire about the job or her productivity but really wanted to hear how she was doing. Then I had to take the time to ask the question and listen. She trusted me enough to be honest with me and I will always respect her for that. She was embarrassed to discuss this with me but she knew I would not harm her. This is what it takes to become an authentic leader."

Cliff Luckey, Vice President of Technology, McLane Advanced Technologies

"I think being an authentic leader requires a couple of key ingredients. I believe the foundation rests with being an authentic individual. To me that means being self-aware, confident, and grounded in who you are as a person. I also think you need to know your people. What motivates them? What are their hopes, dreams, and fears? If you can connect with people at that deeper level, I think you can more effectively lead them. To put it more bluntly, if you don't truly know your people I'm not sure you can be viewed as "authentic" or a "leader."

Patti Killian, Manager, Learning & Development, State Farm Insurance

In my opinion, an authentic leader is someone who people want to follow. As an authentic leader, it is important to know yourself enough to understand both your strengths and your weaknesses. Being vulnerable, yet confident enough to surround yourself with individuals and a team that may be brighter and more talented allows everyone to serve in their highest capacity and to ultimately fulfill our true potential and God-given talents. All too often we are quick to judge, quick to criticize, quick to question when we are best served with open dialogue and allowing others to rise to the occasion. An authentic leader possesses traits that include effective listening, fosters open communication and courageous conversations to occur, builds strong relationships, and seeks and rewards truth and proactively addresses anything that gets in the way. In a nutshell, an authentic leader allows others to be their best and to fulfill their purpose.

Julie Biever, Zone Sales Associate Manager, State Farm Insurance

Submit what you believe it takes to become an authentic leader who people want to follow to Byrd at

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Byrd Baggett, CSP

Byrd Baggett, CSP