Be the Best Version of You With Authentic Leadership
Authentic leadership is something that is being batted around today more than ever. The world requires that we show who we are regardless of all the pressures and concerns that may exist at work or home. I guess the question is, are we all ready to be ourselves in our work? Or is it still a concept versus what is being expected of us?
Most business leaders were taught traditional transactional models to run their businesses. But how does one demonstrate the value of transformational leadership in a sector that is focused on goals, uses reward and punishment for motivation, along with control over creativity at work? So, if there is a need for change, what is the best approach to get us to the space where we can be our true authentic selves at work that would be more aligned with transformational leadership?
What is the business case for transformational leadership in this day and age? Transformational leadership is more in line with more transparent communication, relationship-building collaboration, and empowerment of others. These qualities are some of the core things that are needed if we are to be ourselves at work. But how does one impart the need for transformational leadership when the pervasive them for transactional leadership has been the core of business for years.
Some industries are open to making changes while others may know that they need to create change. However, they may not know the elements necessary to consider in reference to the value of this change. There are so many things that add value to an organization. Let’s think of transparent communication when leaders can demonstrate their capacity to be open and honest. This fosters a space in others where they can create the space within themselves, which, in turn, impacts everyone around them.
According to Psychologist Ronald Riggio, when leaders are able to show who they are that they are able to share and demonstrate their core values; ultimately, what develops is trust.
Transparent communication is being aware of one’s internal space as a leader to be centered at all times when imparting information. Most leaders would say that they share the information needed to run the business at hand. However, leaders are being asked to show the softness of their space, a place where transactional leaders thread on very lightly for fear that they would be perceived as weak. So, what is the business case of leaders showing that they can be reached for their sharing their vulnerability?
A colleague of mine from the Forbes business council shared that he needed to be humbled in order to show his vulnerable side. He was able to achieve success relatively young as a CEO in software. But eventually, things started to disintegrate, and he was humbled. He really needed to reflect on what he could do to work on his internal space of humility so that others could experience him as someone who was genuine and truly cared.
A Forbes Story
One of the things he did in order to create less distance between him and his staff was instead of flying first-class, he went into economy on their long flights to their meetings. Previously he would walk past his employees and fly in first-class on business trips. This was something that he would previously not have thought was an issue. Then, he did not take a paycheque for two years, something that his employees were not aware of. After two years, he made a speech to his staff, and the tension could be cut with a knife; the CEO was dismayed as he shared his vulnerability, but the team did not respond.
Eventually, after the meeting, the CEO was told that his staff needed time to heal, and they needed to know that the changes he made were real. He used love as a business strategy as his guidepost. Needless to say, the profits of the business surpassed his expectations and made the case for human capital. Your people are the primary indicator of what your profit will look like. This CEO learned the hard lesson that when you focus on relationships, the ROI takes care of itself regardless of the industry or its size.
When a leader is able to share his story that his employees can relate to, they are seen as authentic and relatable. When leaders show that they can cope with things to default, what says to others is that I am galvanized, and I do not feel things the way you do as an employee. In sharing, the leader is joining on a deeper level, and people can drop their guard and focus not only on what is in their best interests but what is in the best interest of the whole.
So the question that leaders need to ask themselves is how transparent is my communication? Am I able to understand my internal space when I am worried about the concerns in a business and able to sit with my problems but also share but hold the space for hopefulness in others? If, as a leader, the daunting concern that enters your mind is that I need to focus on performance, the best way to impact goals is to make inroads into how your employees relate to you.
We all want to feel that we are a part of something bigger. When employees feel like you care, they show their reciprocity by bringing the best version of themselves to work. Goals and spreadsheets are necessary as a guidepost, but your people keep themselves accountable for their productivity.
When relationships are solid, then teams can collaborate in more constructive ways. Teams are consistently in flux when they go through various stages referred to as forming, norming, storming, and performing. Imagine a team that is run from a backspace where there is a lack of trust. What happens to the team? How focused would the team be when they are consistently in a state of flux. Frequently, there are changes on teams where employees are leaving and joining at any given time. So what is the cost of lack of trust?
The numbers would be staggering if the existing team does not have the comfort to integrate new members, resolve concerns and stay focused on the task at hand. Transparency flows from the macro-level through each layer of the organization. Hence, one’s leadership dictates the level of trust and transparency. And then the cohesiveness of each business unit across the culture.
When there is consistency by leadership, the team members can look at their role as part of the overall culture. The stance becomes how is my role vital to the overall success of the entire whole versus the divisiveness that sets in when there is a lack of consistency in communication across the board. How does the leader ensure that all these elements exist on an ongoing basis? They start with the baseline of their leadership.
There are many ways to approach this concept of authentic leadership. One of the most important steps is to understand where you are in the concept arena.
Assessing Your Skills for Authentic Leadership
Here are some areas to assess your skills:
- How self-aware are you?
- Do you lead from the heart and show vulnerability to build connections on your team?
- Are you a good listener? Are you open-minded and listen to all points of view?
- Do you value open and transparent communication?
- Are you the same person in private as you are in public?
- Do you focus on long-term goals?
- Are you showing integrity? Is what you say in line with what you do?
- Do you lead with vision and purpose?
- Are you sharing success and giving credit to your team?
- Do you draw from learned life lessons, experiences, and stories?
When you can assess your skills as an authentic leader, what is just as important is understanding what others think about your skills. Often, we have a perception of our own skill sets but what allows us to grow is understanding how we impact others. So as a leader, where does one begin? It is important to collate as much information through the various sources that you can retrieve from how you collect data.
Collating Information for Authentic Leadership
- Email and customer contact forms.
- Usability tests.
- Exploratory customer interviews.
- Social media.
- On-site activity (via analytics).
- Instant feedback from your website.
- Employee surveys.
Once there is a benchmark of the perception of the company, there is a bit of a roadmap of where the gaps may exist in your leadership team. This roadmap should be utilized to create a plan to be implemented over time. If there are glaring concerns, try to take a slow but steady space where historical concerns are addressed.
Eventually, as employees see that are you as the leader, walking the walk of being available to listen at a deeper level of what is in their best interest, with time you will gain the return on the relationship paradigm where employees will be the most connected, productive, creative version of themselves.