Lead with authenticity
Authenticity is a bit of a buzzword at the moment and there’s a good reason for that. After decades of being fed ineffectual messages and ideas about what a good leader is, the corporate world is now embracing a leadership-style focused on honesty, humility, approachability and authentic communication. In other words – leaders are getting real.
Gabrielle Dolan is a leadership mentor, speaker and author of Ignite: Real Leadership, Real Talk, Real Results, and in her work running leadership programs for some of Australia’s leading organisations she has seen the proof that ‘reality ignites’. As a long-time believer that leaders and managers have to ‘get real’ in order to be successful in their role, Gabrielle has some top tips for managers and leaders struggling with letting go of their old ways. Ultimately, ‘keeping it real’ will be harder for some than others, but by embracing these ideas and working them into your day, you’ll be able to lead with more authenticity, for the betterment of yourself, your team and your organisation.
Let go of the need to be perfect
The quest for perfection can really hold back leaders from forging genuine connections with their staff. Gabrielle believes that some managers are not prepared to be more real because they are operating under the premise that because they hold a position of authority they need to be bulletproof and have all the answers. “People are not looking for perfect leaders because perfect leaders aren’t real and real leaders aren’t perfect,” explains Gabrielle. Admitting that you don’t have all the answers and need the expertise, knowledge, and experience of the people working in your organisation is the first step to being more ‘real’ and letting others know the value that they bring to their role.
Stop taking a one-size-fits-all approach to rewarding and recognising your team
While many organisations are attempting to be more inclusive and professional with reward and recognition, there is still room for improvement within most organisations. With the days of the big, boozy end-of-year lunch behind us, Gabrielle believes that reward and recognition needs to be a focus for managers and leaders throughout the whole year, not just once a year. “Thanking people on a regular basis can have more of an impact than an annual event or lunch. In regards to attracting and retaining talent, the companies that are serious about this are looking for ways to give their best and brightest an opportunity to give back and make a difference. I am seeing an increase in thought leadership programs to retain and develop key talent which is both a win for the organisation and the selected individual,” says Gabrielle.
Start showing your true self more often
Although a difficult concept for many leaders to grasp, starting to share more personal stories and being more vulnerable can help leaders nurture better connections with their team. “To be more real people need to show vulnerability and that can be scary,” says Gabrielle. This may involve telling a story about how you went to speech therapy to help with a lisp when you were a child, how you overcame nerves to deliver your first public speech or how you struggled to finish your MBA while juggling your studies with a young family and a full-time job. These types of personal stories not only show your more human side they also encourage others to be more vulnerable and open.
Spend less time being ‘unavailable’
Gabrielle has a clear message for leaders who spend too much time locked in their office, sit with headphones on or are in so many meetings they are rarely seen. “Take some time to get out and about in your business, engage in conversation and be genuinely interested and curious. Ask questions and then listen – really listen – you might be surprised what you learn and how engaged your employees become,” says Gabrielle.
Physical walls can act as emotional barriers, so if you’re using your office as a form of protection against engaging with your employees, stepping out of your office more could be quite uncomfortable in the beginning. However after a few weeks of interaction with your employees, it will become second nature, and you’ll benefit from knowing more about your people and your organisation. You might even learn something about yourself too!
Quit using corporate jargon
Having worked with many senior leaders in a variety of corporate organisations within the banking, telecommunications and professional services industries, Gabrielle knows all about the importance of authentic communication within the workplace. She firmly believes that one of the easiest ways managers can be more real is to reduce the amount of corporate acronyms, ‘management speak’ and tired, jingoistic lingo used within the workplace. “Every time jargon is used it disconnects and isolates people and the role of a leader is to engage and connect with people,” she comments. So next time think twice when you’re tempted to check if something is ‘above board’, ‘tell your team to ‘think outside the box’ or make sure ‘you are on the same page’.
Thinking of new ways to reward employees regularly beyond a one-off lunch is a sure-fire way to maintain high levels of engagement and job satisfaction through the length of an employee’s tenure, which will hopefully be a long one if the employee feels truly valued and engaged.