Leading through authenticity

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Do you consider yourself a leader? Leadership takes on many forms from leading a team of employees, to leading a sports team, a group of friends and even self-leadership. Often we don’t recognise when we are in such a responsible role but we all know that how we act has implications for the way others view us, as well as the outcomes we are trying to achieve.

I have worked with many different types of leaders in my time, some who have encouraged their teams by showing support, being available and being open and honest. Others have been less supportive and more directional, i.e. providing tasks to be completed with little direction or information. The best and most successful leaders I have seen are those that have the former style. This is because these types of leaders share a vision, provide guidance, and care about their team. It’s through this that they get real results.

It’s commonly now known that positive and supportive leadership leads to increased productivity and reduced turnover. Why is this? Well its because leaders who don’t share their vision or provide this type of environment often leave us feeling uninspired, less valued and disengaged. A positive leadership style makes the work more enjoyable, we feel respected and treated as adults, and we see where we fit in to the overall vision. This type of leadership is often associated with the term ‘authentic leadership’.

Authentic leadership is all about being legitimate and having open and honest relationships. Leading from a place that is right for all, not according to self-interests. Therefore by building trust and generating enthusiastic support from their teams, authentic leaders are able to improve individual and team performance.

So how do you become an authentic leader? Well firstly you need to understand and act in accordance with your own values. Personal values are our judgment on what is important in life. They drive our behavior as well as providing a standard to which we hold other’s behaviour. They are our authentic self, what we hold important in our lives.
Authentic leaders uphold their own values when making decisions and taking actions. They look for opportunities to align themselves with activities that support their own beliefs. This is not always easy, especially in a work environment. Often we are asked to do things that may not fit with our own idea of what is right. These actions may also hold consequences for others that we are leading or working with. So how do you balance this? Well it takes courage. Courage to stand up for what you believe in and courage to be honest with those you are working with.

Of course there are times when its not possible to give people all the information you have as it may have negative consequences for them or the business. In cases like this its important to act with respect and consideration, provide what information you can and ensure proper planning is in place to disseminate information and take actions that are appropriate and humanistic.

By acting in this manner you lead by example, you build a team of committed workers, players, friends and you create an honest and open environment where people are not afraid to speak their truth and ask for help. Courageous people pull others along with them and provide benefits for others, just think of people like Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai, the girl shot by the Taliban for pursuing the right to an education. I know the kind of leader I’d rather work with.

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It’s nice to be nice

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Make Hay Coaching

I went on a date last week. This gentleman had been pursuing me for a couple of weeks, messaging every day, so I agreed to meet him for drinks and dinner. We enjoyed a bottle of wine in a great city venue, and whilst he really wasn’t my type, he was a nice guy (so I thought) and I figured I might as well continue the date on to dinner. We discussed the venue of choice, were about to go and he said he’d just fix up the bill and go to the loo which was on a different floor.

He never came back. Yes, just like in the movies!

After 15 minutes I sent him a text to make sure he was ok and to ask if he’d done a runner on me. No response. I waited another 15 minutes and by that time was pretty sure he wasn’t returning. Various scenarios floated through my head, maybe he had an ‘accident’ on the way to the loo? Maybe he had been mugged on his way? Maybe he got his bits caught in his zipper? Maybe he had a call and had to dash off? Maybe he got a better offer? Maybe he was (heaven forbid) lying on the floor somewhere close to death? I also had visions of him climbing out the toilet window to escape. As he was a big guy and the toilet was on the third floor, this image at least kept me entertained as I waited.

I decided to leave, and later I felt bad. I thought ‘what if something did happen to him?’ He didn’t return my text at all, and I thought surely he hadn’t done a runner? There were no signs, he was the one who suggested dinner and anyway, who does that???

So I did some research the next day, I put my investigating skills to work, just to make sure he was still alive. Turns out he was. I also suspect that of the possible scenarios, the better offer was the winner.

I couldn’t believe that he had chosen such a gutless and rude exit; as a mature man you should be able to have a difficult conversation. Difficult conversations are so called because they are ‘difficult’, but by ignoring the situation we only do the other party (and ourselves) a disservice. Until we can face these situations we will always have that slow burning anxiety in our belly because things won’t change and we might get caught out. And really, let’s face it, its just good manners!

So I’m starting a manners movement, I’m encouraging others to act with respect and remember one of life’s important lessons ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’.

So next time you have to reject someone, say no to a colleague or family member, or even performance manage a staff member, do so with speed, honesty and integrity. Don’t just wait for the problem to go away to save yourself the pain, because it probably won’t! Set the example, act with courage and be kind. Support others to do the same, make sure they see all perspectives and have the skills and courage necessary to face challenging discussions and situations with empathy and tact. If we all acted with good manners and respect the world would be a better place to live. After all, as my dear friend would say, ‘its nice to be nice’.

NB. The date wasn’t a total loss, sure I wasted some time, but he did pay the bill so I got few nice drinks amongst some amazing city views and a new blog post out of it!

To learn more about how Make Hay coaching can help you build courage and resilience, visit me at makehay.com.au.

The ‘uncomfort’ zone

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The comfort zone. We’ve all got one. Wikipedia describes it as ‘ a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk’.  Sounds pretty boring to me.

A couple of years ago I was attending a residential course for my MBA. It was for the subject ‘change management’ –change management is a business term that relates to making changes to processes and procedures and supporting employees through those changes. Basically helping them move outside their ‘comfort zone’. 

This was an experiential learning experience where each day we were pushed further and further outside our own comfort zone to experience the feelings that change brings. I consider myself a change embracer but this experience was tougher than I had imagined, I had no control over, or in fact any idea about, what was happening next. 

On the final day we were told that as a group we had to perform a song and dance in a video. Now I’m pretty confident in my dance moves but I am terrified of being in front of a camera. All I could think was how awful I would look, and how people would judge me when we watched the video back at the end of the day. So I did what any normal person would do. I panicked, looked around for the closest exit and got ready to run!  Small problem though, I was miles away from home and if I left now I’d have to repeat the whole subject again to get a pass and finish my MBA.

But then I thought it through. I realized that if I felt this way, many of the other students would surely feel the same, in which case when it came to watching the video the only person they would be focusing on was themselves.  So I harnessed my courage and changed my focus. I knew if I didn’t embrace it then all I would see when watching the video was how awkward and reserved I was and this would make me feel even worse.  I thought if I have to do this I might as well have fun with it and I just let myself go. 

So what was the result?  Well I had fun, a lot of fun. And when I watched the video at the end of the day I looked like I was doing just that, having fun.

Comfort zones may be easy places to hang out but if we don’t step outside of them and take a risk we will never know how great we can be, how much fun we can have and what we are capable of achieving. I really believe that if you stay within your comfort zone for too long, you will become ‘uncomfortable’.  You’ll be stuck living with the anxiety and stress that has built up over time because you haven’t been living to your full potential.  So get out there, embrace your fears and vulnerabilities, and take a risk.  What’s the worst that could happen? Or more importantly, what’s the best that could happen?