One of my favourite topics to write about is leadership. If you search my blog you will find at least a third of my posts link back to the theme of leadership. Heck, if you Google “leadership,” you will get over 489 MILLION hits. So to say that leadership is a relevant topic would be an understatement!
Depending on who you listen to, or what you read, there are many elements that go into defining good leadership. Truth be told, at times, it does seem like the whole reality of “good leadership” is a bit of a holy grail search as it seems far too many of us are always on the lookout for good leadership but struggle to actually find it! In my experience, while there are, without argument, many things that define great leadership, I believe it all starts with authenticity. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, authenticity means “real or genuine, not copied or false.” So think about that definition for a moment and think about the leaders in your current or past organizations. Now, don’t you think that good or great leadership starts with a foundation of authenticity?
Authenticity leads to credibility, credibility leads to trust and trust leads to engagement. Ultimately, isn’t that what we are looking for from our organizational leaders? We want them to ultimately be able to provide a work environment that effectively engages (and retains) its employees. They do this by being authentic with their employees. Employees want to believe and trust in their organizational leaders, but as leaders, we have to give them reasons to trust us. Much like Rod Tidwell’s “Show me the Money!” rant from Jerry McGuire, we, as leaders, need to “Show them the authenticity!”
So, the next logical question is, “well what can/should leaders be doing to build and establish authenticity?” In my experience with coaching organizational leaders, there are five (5) simple, but key, things leaders can do and should be doing to build their authenticity:
- Communicate regularly – take every opportunity available to you to talk with employees and communicate information, update them on changes and talk to them on a personal (real) level.
- Admit if you don’t know something – seems simple but it is a hard thing to do. Sharing small moments of vulnerability like this actually establishes your credibility as a leader.
- Always tell the truth – another one that seems simple (but not always followed). Keep in mind, there is no flexibility with this you. When you don’t tell the truth, you lose your credibility and thus your authenticity.
- Keep your word – if you say you are going to do something or deliver on something, then do it. Don’t make excuses or brush things off because you feel they are not important (to your employees.) If you do, again, you lose credibility and your authenticity.
- Be visible – as a leader you have to “seen” by your employees and be approachable to them. Don’t hide out in your office or in meetings all day. At some point in time you need to walk amongst the people. This also ties in with point #1. Visibility leads to communication and both lead to and build authenticity.
Here is the other thing to remember, being an authentic leader also formulates an important part of your professional brand. If you think of it in terms of being able to market yourself and present yourself externally to industry, (and internally to staff) wouldn’t YOU want to deal with a brand that is known for its authenticity and credibility? Keep that in mind as you continue to build your foundation of leadership authenticity. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.
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