Leadership is far less about what you are doing, than about who you are being. If you think about the people who have influenced you most over the course of your career and life, it’s likely that what impacted you most was not what they did, but about who they were being while doing it.
Genuine. Honest. Courageous. Resilient. Real.
Indeed, engaging authentically with the people around you is the first task of genuine leadership.
In today’s culture, where so much emphasis is placed on the superficial, people crave authenticity. Employees today are hungry for real what-you-see-is-what-you-get leadership. The most inspiring and influential leaders therefore don’t lead because of what they do (though they do plenty), but because of who they are. Too often leaders and those who aspire to be, forget that.
When you’re able to connect authentically with those you seek to lead, you become more approachable, more trusted and more influential. Below is summary of the five ways leaders can unlock the power of authenticity which I wrote about in my latest book Stop Playing Safe. When you commit to embracing and practicing each of them, you will grow into a leader others will connect to more easily, follow more readily and be willing to put themselves on the line for again and again. In the end, there is not greater test of leadership than to inspire greater authenticity and courage in those you lead.
1. Share Authentically— Unlock The Power of Vulnerability
Sharing ourselves authentically often goes against our instincts for self-preservation. It explains why, when we anticipate finding ourselves in a vulnerable predicament, our automatic reaction is to protect ourselves: pull out of the launch, cancel the meeting, step back from the relationship, or retreat from centre stage. Yet it’s through becoming vulnerable that we can connect most deeply.
While researching Stop Playing Safe, James Strong, former CEO of Qantas shared with me, “You have to be willing to put yourself at risk in the way you communicate and interact with employees.” We trust people who don’t need to prove their superiority, success or significance in any way—who can connect from a place of being ‘human’ a bit better than the rest of us.
When people can relate to you as a fellow human being—rather than as someone with the power to cut your budget or outsource your job—you can build engagement and lift performance beyond anything ‘unreal’ leaders ever can. As Harvard Researcher Shawn Achor wrote in The Happiness Advantage, ‘The more genuinely expressive someone is, the more their mindset and feelings spread.’
2. Express Authentically— Unlock The Power of Individuality
Margaret Thatcher once said, ‘You cannot lead from the crowd.’ While sometimes leadership entails confronting powerful forces of opposition, as Thatcher did with single-minded determination, more often it requires standing firm against the powerful inner forces that drive us to conform and vanilla down that which makes us different.
When all we do is try to fit in, we negate the difference our difference makes. As I wrote in Stop Playing Safe, ‘Owning what makes you different enables you to differentiate yourself and build a unique brand in your work and in the career ‘marketplace.’ It’s important to be mindful about how others perceive you, but when you allow what you think that they might think determine who you will be, you sell out to conformity and deprive those around you of the unique contribution you have to make.
3. Listen Authentically— Unlock The Power of Presence
Listening is the most powerful yet poorly practiced of all leadership skills. Authentic listening is done with the intention to see the world through another’s eyes, not to have them see it through yours. Listening authentically not only enables you to break down the barriers that cause people to withhold trust, but it fosters collaboration.
Unlocking the profound power of presence takes not more than putting your agenda aside and allowing yourself to be fully present to the person you are being with – opening yourself to see what they see and feel what they feel. If you haven’t tried it for a while, do yourself a favor and do so today. The impact you can make both on yourself and the person you are being present to can be profound.
Read the rest here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2013/05/20/why-leaders-must-get-real/