Authenticity is considered an essential characteristic of modern business leaders, but being an authentic leader is often too simplistic just to be yourself. We have been told all our lives that owning is the key to happiness and professional success, but in the ever-changing business environment under the countless pressures of managers, the “just be yourself” (JBY) approach can actually lead to disastrous results.
And yet, numerous studies show that authenticity is a professional advantage. Some would even say that this is the “gold standard for leadership”. So how do you achieve authenticity in the workplace if it’s not as easy as JBY?
For starters, authentic leaders understand that they are not perfect and continue to see themselves as progressive. They are not afraid to admit ignorance and seek advice from others, and they tend to actively seek help and guidance to improve their inner life, including their character, values and mentality.
They inspire faith in those they lead because their actions combine with the values they uphold.
Unfortunately, this type of leader is relatively rare, given the fact that less than half of the employees trust their bosses completely. However, if you want to count among the faithful minorities, here are three things you need to stop doing to get your own authentic leadership version.
1. Use the same leadership style in every situation
If you do JBYing in an effort to be authentic, you will probably approach each situation with the same leadership style, not deviating from the one that suits your personal preferences. Not only does this help you in your quest for authenticity, but it also reduces your effectiveness. In the business world, you are presented with a variety of challenges, and if you adapt the way you lead accordingly, you will be most successful. Don’t worry: being flexible doesn’t make you an unproven or poor leader. In fact, the best leaders can shape their behavior based on the people they are working with at a given time and their specific purpose.
For example, you could take a coaching leadership approach with an employee who is no longer a newcomer but may need more information or additional guidance about your industry. And you can use a speed-setting leadership approach with other employees who seem to be able to improve recognition and rewards but fight the burnout. Steve Jobs often wears his coaching leadership hat when he responds to the design team on their prototypes. He left the designers to do their work but popped up occasionally to challenge and guide them.
Writing about leaders and their coaching style, Stephanie Pescott, senior vice president and partner at consulting firm BTS, said, “Unfortunately, many people misunderstand how to develop their staff. Instinctively, they want to help and coach. But they are wrong. Instead of waiting for the annual review to provide such guidance or encouraging people to look for answers, tell them what to do. ”
2. Being a fully open book
If you take a JBY approach to leadership, you may be tempted to be a completely open book for your team. And it is true that your employees value transparency. In fact, most people in your life probably do. Transparency encourages trust, which can be the most important element in almost any relationship. Show your colleagues that you value them and trust them by keeping them updated on important strategic initiatives, company health and your vision for the future.
This does not mean that you should always be in the forefront of what people want from you. It does not benefit anyone to reveal a semi-structured plan or agreement that may or may not be effective. Tell your coworkers if they need to know anything. But instead of being an open book for anyone asking you something, consider the right time and medium for your message.
3. Prioritize chat
If you are JBYing, you may be tempted to increase your water cooling time with team members. On the surface, it seems like a good idea. Above all, getting to know your employees can be extremely rewarding as well as beneficial for employee engagement. But keep in mind that knowing your team is more about quality than quantity of your interactions. In other words, to be a genuine leader, you do not need to engage in small talk.
Similarly, that doesn’t mean you have to schedule more fun and company-wide outings or have fun at the annual holiday party. Instead, focus on building relationships based on listening to your employees’ needs and ideas. If they can hear, they will want to contribute. Otherwise, they will want to find a new job — and their decision to leave will not be affected by your lack of water cooler chat. Schedule regular check-in meetings and let your employees control the agenda. And when employees are talking to you, make eye contact and avoid the myriad digital confusions at your fingertips.
The best leaders don’t just “work” and win over employees and become “themselves” to overcome complex business challenges. It may sound malicious, but it takes years to master genuine leadership and a lot of deliberate practice. At the same time, it is important to avoid traps like the above three, which may seem to be true, but in reality the opposite is true.