What does authentic leadership mean to you? For me, it’s a two-sided proposition – one that I see clients in the corporate world struggle with on a daily basis.
Authenticity is not measured only by how we as leaders perform, but also how we allow our employees to perform. Enable your people to work as their authentic selves and watch your product or service come alive. Stifle their creativity and watch your organization hit the wall.
As leaders, our job is to learn about our employees and identify how we can get the most out of them. Here are four ways we can do just that:
1. Define Authenticity
Before committing to a more authentic leadership culture, you first must define what that means for your organization. The concept and true source of authenticity are often misunderstood. You cannot call yourself “authentic.” Whether or not you possess this critical characteristic is up to those around you to debate.
We must lead by example if we hope to authentically inspire and motivate our people. Control your emotions when you’re on the hot seat. Spend free time at work asking your employees questions about their personal lives and what they hope to achieve in life. If employees identify you as someone with conviction and compassion, then they will put these same principles to work for your company.
2. Channel Your Self-Awareness
When is the last time you channeled your self-awareness into tangible action? When you become cognizant of where you stand in the eyes of your employees, you unlock a whole new world of potential opportunity to develop the leadership skills of those around you.
That’s because authentic leaders use awareness of their own strengths, weaknesses and emotional tendencies to identify the same characteristics in others. This allows you to mentor employees on what they need to improve in order to reach their full potential. Not the potential that you think they have, but the potential they believe in.
3. Master the ‘Permission’ Level of Leadership
John C. Maxwell’s best-selling book, The Five Levels of Leadership, serves as the foundation from which we build and deliver our custom leadership development solutions. In Level 2, you make the jump from Position to Permission, your first real step into the realm of leadership.
When a leader learns to function on the Permission level, people actually start to follow them. Not because they have the title of manager or executive, but because the leader begins to influence people by building relationships with them.
Doing so develops a foundation for effective leadership and de-silos an organization’s infrastructure. Relationships deepen and people feel valued. These are hallmark achievements of a leader dedicated to reaching ‘Permission’ status.
4. Find Common Ground
As an executive leader, there are projects and plans that you must control. There are others that call for close collaboration with your team. Use these moments to show that you are open to their suggestions. Find common ground on important initiatives, even if it means transferring some of your ownership into the hands of your people.
A truly authentic leader trusts his or her followers to perform, and gives them the leeway to make mistakes. Without this flexibility and open-mindedness, employee retention issues find their way into the conversation. People want to work for those they trust – and those who show trust in them.
More than a strategic keyword that you weave into your resume, ‘authenticity’ should live at the intersection of corporate leadership development and business outcomes. Executives and employees alike must be allowed – and encouraged – to work how they are wired. Your organization will reap the benefits.
The John Maxwell Podcast