By 2025, Millennials are expected to make up over 75% of the workforce in the United States, which tells us the workplace is changing, and with it many of the values employees most highly treasure. At the top of this list for the Gen X workforce, is authenticity in leadership. If they don’t feel the real you, you’ll find yourself struggling to instill trust, foster engagement, and drive productivity. It takes courage and self-confidence to be who you really are – and we’d love to help you move in that direction, to draw out the best in your people.
Whether you’re in a company wide stand-up, or a 1:1 with your direct report, taking a step further with your authenticity will take your leadership to the next level. Follow the tips below to step up your authenticity game and watch how your team reacts.
Set learning goals. Often in leadership, we find ourselves failing to live up to the person we strive to be. You probably feel like an imposter, you’re in way over your head, or you don’t trust you can even do the job. It’s okay to feel this way – you aren’t alone. A great place to start is to set goals for learning (not just for your performance). This helps you stretch yourself and actually build a plan to become the leader you are currently pretending to be. You won’t change your identity right at the start, but overtime your identity and proficiency will increase which will allow you to stop protecting yourself and be comfortable with your team. And in the meantime, practice leading with vulnerability.
Seek depth in conversations. Meetings tend to skip over human connection. You will deposit precious equity into the relationship with your team when you talk about your emotions and difficulties on a healthy level. Emotions drive so much of what we do and why we do what we do: therefore, it will be freeing to let your team see how you are feeling. This does not mean turn your meetings into places of gossip or emotional news. It means bring the humanity-aspect back.
Listen. Authentic people talk less, period. They take the time to be present with the person they are talking to, and they care about what they have to say. They are conserving their energy to say what really matters, storing up what we call ‘relational equity’. Additionally, authentic people demonstrate self-discipline by listening instead of simply inserting their point of view. This will add rocket fuel to establishing connected, deep relationships.
Ask for feedback. Feedback is another critical component of authentic leadership. As Bill George (Author of Authentic Leadership) writes: “One of the hardest things for leaders to do is to understand how other people see them, which is often quite different than how they want to be seen.” Even though it can be challenging, and occasionally demoralizing, leaders must ask their peers, friends, and subordinates for honest feedback about their skills and leadership style. You can start small – in your daily rhythm of meetings – or if there’s more at stake, consider a 360 degree review.
Practice solid values. This can be as easy as not complaining to your boss or to your team because you take full responsibility of your life. This can mean respecting others’ boundaries. This can mean not sharing excessively. Living your life with values that matter to you will show your team what you stand for, and challenge them to step up to the plate as they realize they have a leader who cares, listens, and learns from them
“Re-humanizing work and education requires courageous leadership,” writes Brené Brown, a professor whose TED talk on vulnerability has been viewed more than 37 million times. “It requires leaders who are willing to take risks, embrace vulnerabilities, and show up as imperfect, real people.”