Leadership Learnings: Just As You Are

I am so fortunate to have worked alongside and for some of the people who I believe embody the best aspects of leadership.  For me they are truly inspirational people and they have my greatest respect.  What I have learnt from them, just by being who they are, is nothing short of a gift. They are true friends as well as colleagues.  Not surprisingly to those who have also had the blessing of working with them, my first manager and my current CEO are two of the most inspirational leaders I know (if either of you are reading this just take it – it’s true).

The key thing that these sensational people have in common is that they do not try to be anyone but themselves.  They are authentic and genuine.  They know themselves,  they celebrate their talents and work with their strengths. They devote themselves to personal growth and development and seek out opportunities for feedback to ensure they are succeeding.  These managers are open and remain mindful of their ‘gaps’, can have a good laugh at themselves and generally have a great sense of enthusiasm, fun and enjoyment.  There is a sense about them that they almost glow from within and are incredibly relaxed within their positions.

Authenticity has become a critical quality in modern leadership and much has recently been written about it.  A sense of people’s authenticity has a tremendous impact on how much we trust them, how comfortable we are with them and how willing we are to follow them.

The characteristics Authentic Leaders share include:  Insight – they have vision + wisdom and the ability work through complex problems with clarity; Initiative – they have a go, they don’t ask permission, they back winning ideas, go against the status quo and take calculated risks;  Influence – their enthusiasm and vision is contagious and people are drawn to them and want to help them succeed;  Integrity – they have a personal set of values that they live by and are honest, trustworthy and transparent in their actions; and Impact – they make a difference, they are able to create real and lasting change, they leave a ripple behind them, they aim to leave a legacy.

You cannot be authentic if you are pretending to be someone you are not or suppressing the real you.  Most people who work for you see through this quickly.  The impact this has is enormous – people are less likely to trust, less likely to participate and provide information and they are less likely to fully commitment or give their all.  This all impacts on organisational culture and general productivity and achievement.

The benefits speak for themselves.  There’s nothing to lose and it all starts with being yourself and finding your own groove “just as you are” (yes more dreamy Mr Darcy via Bridget Jones’s Diary).

I’d love to hear your stories of authentic leadership.  Do you work with an authentic leader? What makes them authentic and how does this inspire you?

Meg x

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Leadership Learnings: The Importance of Syncing your Audio with your Video

Of all the aspects of my current and past roles, the part that I love most is leadership.  Mind you, I continue to be far more a student than an expert, but it’s this that brings me the most fulfilment and challenge and it’s what feels most natural to me.  I think this is because I have always had a genuine fascination with people – I love observing them, trying to understand what’s behind their actions and what motivates them and I get a real buzz from supporting them through barriers and issues and helping them redefine themselves and succeed.  Joy.

Most of my learnings have come from a blend of:  Successes and wins  (through a mix of calculated risk taking, keeping up with the latest in my area of influence, good old teamwork and from the good faith of others in trusting my seemingly wacky ideas);  Mistakes a-plenty (I wear them proudly); Endless research and reading on topic and on developing self; and by observing others – identifying those golden “Must Dos” and those equally precious “Don’t Dos”.

So this series of posts, titled Leadership Learnings, is about is these observations – tips and tricks of what I see that works and what doesn’t in being a leader, starting with The Importance of Syncing Your Audio with your Video (I doff my hat to my good mate KW for this analogy – legend that he is) .

This could equally be titled “Practice What You Preach”,”The Importance of Role Modelling” or “Do as I do”.  It goes a little something like this:  If you expect people to behave a certain way, aspire to a vision, do things a particular way – you’ve gotta show them how it’s done.  Consistently.  There’s no point whatsoever or anything to be achieved from getting up on your high horse preaching values, behaviours and cultural reform if it’s not something you are prepared to do yourself.  Most people just don’t go there, because without creating an environment that is safe and secure, it is difficult for people to change, take a risk, go outside their comfort zones or achieve and, where this exists, many staff members often end up disliking their jobs and can’t wait to leave – often resulting in mass talent exodus.  Obviously this is far from ideal.

I’m sure all of us have experienced leaders who on one hand are aspirational, amazing, audacious and visionary, who implement a variety of culture change initiates to promote cultural reform  however on the other hand sabotage their own efforts by behaving in exactly opposite way than what they are promoting. These leaders expect certain standards from their staff and then seem to be more than comfortable (even have glee in) operating in a way that makes people uncomfortable and fearful, creating a quick-sand like environment, fault finding and taking every opportunity to discredit staff (sometimes publicly which is a major no-no).  Does this sound like the actions of someone advocating positive culture change to you? (Please don’t say yes).

The kicker in all of this is that these leaders’ words rarely match their actions.  In other words, their ‘Audio’ is out of sync with their ‘Video’.

People generally figure this out quickly and usually trust declines rapidly. Many faced with this situation often decide that it isn’t worth it and either move on or continue with what they know, while on the outside do the whole “smile, nod, pretend to be interested” thing. Survival.

The affirmation for me in all this is how important it is to ensure you actively demonstrate what you wish to occur.  If you are aiming for a good culture which is achievement focussed then it’s starts with you and you’ll find that’s it’s utterly contagious once you lead the way.  Good intentions alone, do not cut it.  Most people are willing to take a chance and try something new when they know it is safe, actively encouraged and role modelled from the top.  It’s about trust.  And when you have that, you can achieve anything.

Ending this post with one of my favourite all-time quotes from Gandhi as it’s so fitting and very, very true.

“Be The Change you Want to See In the World” 

Feel free to share your out of sync experiences here too….

Meg