Photo Credit: VS Photography
As part of our ZenLeader educational platform, we place a major focus on cultivating Authenticity in leadership. But what does that really entail?
Authenticity in business means leading from your own solid foundation of values that can have a positive (or negative) influence on your corporate culture, and can help you to personally find your zen amidst the corporate chaos.
When we talk about things like mindfulness, self-care, and meditation in a business setting, we’re really digging deeper into our own individual core that speaks to who we are as leaders, and acts as an impetus for our professional growth. What kind of leader would you want to follow, and how can you continuously evolve into that authentic being?
When we serve as authentic leaders, we are completely aware of our own values and beliefs, and we ensure that those values are applied to all of our actions. This leadership style plays a tremendous role in almost every single workplace scenario that we encounter: office conflicts, team-building initiatives, celebrating wins, encouraging innovation and productivity, managing up, and managing down.
Here’s what it means to be authentic as a true ZenLeader:
Foster Honesty & Openness
Being an authentic leader means openly celebrating successes, and acknowledging your losses. If we can cultivate a culture built on trust and transparency regardless of the circumstance, then we are actively demonstrating that yes, of course triumphs are meant to be recognized; but moreover, we must accept that mistakes do happen, and then create solutions to fix those problems to avoid them moving forward in a productive manner.
If we put on the blinders and ignore the negatives, we are only doing ourselves and our teams a disservice, rather than leveraging those mishaps as a learning opportunity. It is your responsibility as a leader to not only set the tone for those corporate values, but also to bring solutions to the table and act as a problem-solver, so your employees will follow in your footsteps.
Get Personal, Sort Of.
Those working in the corporate realm are spending 40+ hours every week of their lives with their colleagues. That is a large percentage of your life spent in the office. While I don’t recommend over-sharing every in and out of your personal happenings with your team, I also don’t believe that we need to compartmentalize our lives as much as we often do.
To be an authentic leader, your people must know the many facets of your true self, and vice versa so you can fully understand one another.
What does this mean? People trust people they like. If you’re a parent, for instance, it’s okay to share that you’re heading to your child’s sports game after work. Or if you love to travel, why not share where you’re flying off to on your next vacation? And ask those questions in reciprocation to better understand your peers and employees, to get a deeper sense of who they are and where they’re coming from.
Establishing meaningful connections with your team that go underneath the surface of daily deliverables and company goals will help your “open door policy” to actually exist, and will give you an opportunity as a leader to gather candid feedback on how your team is genuinely doing, feeling, and performing in their roles today.
Professional growth includes an ongoing process of gaining more self-awareness through emotional intelligence. In preparing to write “Discover Your True North”, Bill George, the creator of the “Authentic Leadership” management approach, identified some recommended steps people should undertake to develop a deeper understanding of themselves in order to become authentic leaders, summarized below via a recent Harvard Business School article:
- Reflect on your own major life events in order to understand who you really are. As leaders discover their truth, they gain confidence and resilience to face difficult situations.
- Engage in introspective best practices, like meditation to clear your mind by shutting down the daily grind, including electronics, and better understand how you’re co-existing with the rest of the world around you.
- Seek out honest feedback from your colleagues, friends, and subordinates about you and your leadership style and tendencies.
- Connect with your ultimate leadership purpose and share it with your team to help others create a more positive impact, which can result in measurable success.
- Learn to tailor your leadership style subjectively based on your audience situationally, and be prepared to a myriad of responses, both positive and negative. It’s important to acquire emotional intelligence skills to adapt your style without compromising your character.
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