Being an authentic leader is a focus lately on many professionals in management positions. Companies have started to realize that you can’t gain respect based on a title and a desk in the corner office.
Employees want authenticity – they want to fully understand the people representing their company and want to feel proud working for those people.
Authenticity is a reflection of your true self, and employees don’t want to feel deceived by management. They want to know if the person they interact with in the hallway is the same they would see at a soccer match or at a restaurant in town.
Some leaders truly struggle with being authentic, and it’s not based on malicious intent! Some may feel like they’re a fraud, and do not want others knowing the “real” them. There is also an older school of thought that aims to shield management from getting “too close” to employers due to blurred lines and a perceived lack of authority and respect.
Being authentic is just too much of a risk for some, possibly due to the fear that employees would not like the “real” person.
Whether you struggle with this or not, being authentic is your first step towards being a great leader. Employees feel that when a leader is authentic, they’re trustworthy. After all, if your employees don’t have trust in you to lead, can they really trust you at all in your position?
Understanding why you took this particular position in leadership and what your goals are is an important step in facing that. If you come across as aloof, or wandering aimlessly with no real goals in mind, you may seem as if you’re imitating others or ‘going with the crowd’.
This is different than moving forward on goals set by a committee or that may have been in place before you took over. However, you can follow through by giving it your own touch and making sure it aligns with your vision.
Authenticity is also displayed when someone stays consistent with their goals and what they said they would accomplish.
Dropping projects because they’re not very glamorous, or switching things around quickly because you’re bored and want a project that ‘makes you look good’ doesn’t help convey that you’re honest and the right choice for that position.
The employees under you will pick up on the sudden changes and may be resentful that they keep spinning their wheels without much to show for it in the way of a completed project. If you give your word that you’re going to focus on a particular project, make it happen.
You must also strive to build connections with others. If you stay shielded behind closed doors and don’t try to form strong bonds with those you work with, it can make you seem like you’re hiding something. An ulterior motive, perhaps?
Don’t give people the option to make those assumptions about you. No one expects you to spend hours divulging your personal life, however, if you have a chance to connect at the watercooler, or while you’re waiting in a meeting before it starts, take it and use it wisely. Go to the after hours work events every now and again, and let others see you how you really are.
In building connections, it’s important to also show your vulnerabilities and make efforts to have empathy for others.
Showing small signs of emotion make you more human, and less machine-like. If everything you do seems scripted and mechanical, employees are less likely to trust you. It’s ok to get sad, angry and happy and have others know that, as well (although, it’s important to know those don’t translate to specific actions and you’ll want to keep how you respond to those feelings in check).
Say “I’m sorry”, if you catch wind that an employee’s grandmother passed away, or congratulate them on getting married. You don’t always have to make it personal, but can convey sentiments regarding professional matters, too.
If the project has been really tough due to irrational stakeholders, delays in communication or seems to drag on from unforeseen circumstances, let those engaged in the project know that you acknowledge they must be frustrated, but appreciate their work.
It’s important to note that being authentic doesn’t mean you have to blur lines of your professionalism or share too much of what’s going on personally.
It just means your employees want to see the true you. If this means you’re sarcastic, a bit of a downer, and a grump before you’ve had coffee, then that’s ok too — knowing that is your true personality, instead of a fake smile and falsetto in your voice will let employees know how to set their expectations.
It’s human nature to detect falsehoods and insincerity, and whether conscious or subconscious, flags go up in the mind. Even if you have good intentions, you don’t want people wondering whether or not they can trust your words and actions.
Being authentic is one of the best ways you can work in general and leads to better connections with yourself and others.
© Human Resources Global