Tag Archive for: leadership

Making Authenticity Real – A Leadership Checklist

A lot of research ( e.g. Harvard Business Review and Leadership & Organization Development Journal) shows that employees’ perception of authentic leadership is the strongest predictor of job satisfaction and can have a positive impact on work-related attitudes. Most employees believe authenticity in the workplace leads to better relationships with colleagues, higher levels of trust, greater productivity, and a more positive working environment. Much of the research contains detailed definitions and lists of attributes of authentic leaders, but how do you really know if you are leading authentically?

Here is a leadership checklist to test if you are leading authentically.

  1. Are you committed enough about your leadership to ask these questions? If you are interested in asking and reflecting on these questions, you are already on the authentic journey. Authenticity isn’t a destination; it’s an inquiring and honest method of travel.
  2. Do you care? Do you care about the people around you and what matters to them? Do you care about your work? Do you care about your own growth? Do you care enough about your team to help them find their gifts? And do you care enough to put the success of the team ahead of your own career advancement?
  3. Are you open to feedback? Are you open to know how your behavior impacts those around you? To learn about your blind spots and become more self-aware? Are you committed to learn to be graceful in receiving criticism? Are you willing to get past defending yourself and pretending you have it all together?
  4. Are you honest? We understand the importance of not stealing from your organization or lying to your employees. But there is another kind of honesty: self-honesty – accepting that you aren’t perfect. Honesty is understanding your strengths and weaknesses and ensuring people on your team are needed and valued by helping to fill the gaps.
  5. Do you keep your promises? Authentic people are accountable. We call people who think they are authentic but who can’t be counted on flakes. Flakes can’t be trusted. So don’t be a flake. Earn trust by being trustworthy.
  6. Do you enjoy your life? Do you enjoy waking up in the morning and coming to work – at least most days? One way to measure good leadership is that good leaders enjoy themselves. Authenticity means you’re living a life that belongs to you, which means you’re enjoying it. And if you are enjoying it, there’s a good chance people around you are enjoying working with you and finding some fulfillment in their work.

Have you considered what impact your actions make?

It has been said that the true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

Not long ago I received an email from a childhood friend who was in my boy scout troop when I was a teenager. My father had been our scout leader, and in the email Alan passed along a memory:

“Years ago, when we were young scouts, we were hiking and stopped on the edge of a long, steep embankment. Soon we were rolling large boulders down the mountain and watching them as they gathered momentum and bounced out of sight. Your dad came by and gently taught us a life lesson.

He said, “Boys, while what you are doing is exciting and seems to be fun, have you ever considered those who might be on the same trail that you came up and how your actions might be putting them in danger?” Then he quietly walked away.

I thought you might like to know of the positive influence from your dad that remains in my life.”

Since receiving Alan’s email, I have been contemplating carefully the impact of my father on my life and the tree of consideration that he planted under whose shade many of us are now sitting.

The verb consider comes from the Latin for contemplate, and hidden in the word is sid, the Latin root for star. Originally it meant to examine something very thoroughly, or carefully, as if you were staring at the night sky, contemplating its mystery. If you give something consideration, you think about it carefully, and not too quickly. Without consideration, without careful contemplation of how attitudes and actions impact others, long-term consequences can be devastating: homes get broken, groups become marginalized, civility is eroded, and humanity suffers.”

My father was loved by the people he spent time with – in large part because he exhibited this precious human quality of consideration. It came through practice – and from taking the time. Just as the early astronomers didn’t rush their observation of the far-off stars in the night sky so they could better understand what they were observing, we too can invest time in nurturing consideration for the constellation of the people in our lives – and the impact our actions have upon them.

What drives your life? A Phone or a Compass?

It’s been said that the average person will spend up to five years of their life looking at their phone. To me, the phone represents the mountain of success we are climbing. It’s about being driven by the world’s expectations. It’s about appointments, schedules, goals, productivity, and achievements. It’s about comparing ourselves to others, developing a reputation, impression management, keeping score, and measuring up. It’s about defining ourselves by how the world defines us.

And then something unexpected happens to knock us off the mountain. We fall into the valley: a cancer scare, a struggle with addiction, the loss of a loved one, a pandemic, a bankruptcy, a divorce, some life-altering tragedy that was not part of the well-laid-out plan. You suddenly find yourself in a dark trench without the cell service of what the world expects from us. No device can take us out of this kind of terrain. It takes, instead, a surrendering to the great difficulty, allowing the pain, confusion, uncertainty, fear, and insecurity to break us open, so that a stronger, wiser, kinder, and more real person can emerge.

In this unknown territory of darkness, instead of a device, we reach for a compass, an inner guide that initiates a life journey guided by values, purpose, contribution, service, and meaning.

I know the authentic journey is not this clear cut and delineated. It’s more messy. But it’s worth pausing and asking where we are on our path to success and meaning.

What are you focused on? What is driving your life? While being driven by what the world expects and measuring up to the standards of the culture is a necessary stage, the authentic journey (what I call in my book by the same title, The Other Everest) asks us to deepen our lives, to find an inner guide beyond what a device can offer us.

Success, after all, isn’t just about height; it’s also about depth.

How to Create a Growth Plan for 2023: EQ, Authenticity, and the Power of Self-Awareness

A great deal of research suggests that emotional intelligence (EQ) – the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions and empathize with the emotions of others – is vital to success at work and in life. A high EQ helps you build healthy teams, reduce stress, increase engagement and motivation, achieve higher productivity, foster psychological safety, defuse conflict, and improve job satisfaction.
One of the four pillars of emotional intelligence is self-awareness – having a comprehensive grasp of who you are as a person and a leader, and how you show up in the world. The more you understand yourself, the better you can connect with others. Self-aware leaders know their strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots, and how to work with them. They are comfortable with themselves and genuine. They have a better understanding of emotions and how they affect behaviour and can recognise those emotions in others.
So… where does self-awareness come from? How do you develop it? Can you create a plan to become more self-aware?
The following suggestions will assist you in designing your own authentic leadership development plan for the new year by incorporating the five components of self-awareness.
  1. Purpose and Vision. Leadership is a consuming activity. A sense of purpose, along with a clearly articulated vision of what you want your life and your leadership to be like in the next five years, will enable to you to stay passionate so you can inspire those under your care.
  2. Insights. Learning is key to self-awareness and growth. What insights do you need this year to build your personal capacity toward your purpose and vision? What books will you read? What courses will you take? What teachers will you seek out?
  3. Self-Reflection. Connecting to others begins with listening to oneself. And listening to yourself requires a place where you can hear yourself think. When you spend so much of your life attending to the demands of others, you can lose yourself by failing to distinguish between your authentic voice and other voices that clamor for your attention.
  4. Feedback. While a habit of personal reflection can bring an element of growth and self-understanding, it will only take you so far. You ultimately can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created the problems. We all have blind spots. We need feedback from others to see what we can’t see.
  5. Employing a guide. Authenticity is a lonely journey, but it can’t be done alone. The lone-warrior model of leadership is, in the words of Ron Heifetz, “heroic suicide.” Guides – those who can take us into the unfamiliar territory of our own development, can come in the form of therapists, coaches, confidants, recovery programs, and peer-mentoring groups.
As you continue your authentic leadership journey into 2023, incorporating some strategies to increase your EQ will undoubtedly heighten the success of your growth plan. What strategies will you try?

Leading Beyond the Great Disruption

Nelson Mandela had many teachers in his life, but the greatest of them all was prison. In the words of his biographer, Richard Stengel, “Prison taught him self-control, discipline, and focus, and it taught him how to be a full human being – the things he considered essential to leadership.” In other words, it was the solitude, degradation, devastation, and inhumanity of his time in confinement that made him into the leader we admire. It was his journey away from the world and into his soul that allowed him to lead in the world.
The pandemic turned our world upside down in a short span of time, and its impact is wider spread than we might acknowledge. Offices, communities, and families have been divided. People have been hurt. We’ve all experienced loss. Our mental health has been affected. The residue of the collective trauma we experienced lingers. The enormous health, economic, and humanitarian challenges of the past two-and-a-half years have led to a great disruption that challenges leaders to reinvent their organizations with an orientation toward renewed and sustainable growth, resilience, and purpose.
May Nelson Mandela’s courageous long walk to freedom be an inspiration to us all to make this great disruption our greatest teacher.
We can start this holiday season by pausing, getting our bearings, resetting our personal and collective compasses, and opening our hearts. It’s a time for healing, caring, and forgiving as we move forward together.
Here are three ways we can be part of creating a new world:
  1. Clarify a vision. Mandela’s dedication to the African people and the ideal of a free and democratic society where all people would live in harmony kept hope alive for the South African people. It also kept Mandela’s own hope alive during his years of unjust confinement. Hope is not a guarantee of a desired outcome, but a deep and sustaining confidence that our contribution will make a difference – regardless of the outcome. What is your personal vision that inspires hope?
  2. Open your hearts. Divisiveness, exclusion, and dissention have been a part of the places where we live and work the past two+ years. Vaccine mandates, corporate policies, religious views, and political opinions have divided families and workplaces like nothing I have experienced in my lifetime. Ask yourself who in your world needs to be listened to, heard, and truly understood. Where might apologies be needed? It’s not agreement but respect, understanding, and compassion that is required. It’s naïve to think that we can just return to work and personal relationships, and everything will be back to normal. Healing from the impact of the pandemic will take time, patience, and much caring from everyone.
  3. Let go of bitterness. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom,” said Nelson Mandela, “I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Forgiveness is not some bleeding-heart, Sunday school platitude. Forgiveness is having the courage to honestly face the emotions that come from being unjustly injured and then letting go of the right to be resentful. It takes maturity to be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even. Forgiveness does not abdicate the importance of justice; rather it removes revenge from the justice process. Forgiveness transforms vengeance into freedom. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Without forgiveness, there is no future.”
To quote Lady Gaga: “The really fantastic thing about kindness is that it’s free. And it can’t hurt you or anybody else. It is the thing that brings us all together. In times of chaos and crisis we start pointing fingers at where we think the bad guys are, where the evil is. We all start arguing. Everybody has different opinions… The solution is that we need to build a stronger, braver world. We need to get rid of the labels, the different factions… none of this can matter anymore. We are unified in our humanity. And the only thing we all know, the one thing we all appreciate in one another, is kindness. This must come before all things. And you must operate relentlessly this way. With everything you have.”

There’s a principle in boxing that timing beats speed and speed beats power.

There’s a principle in boxing that timing beats speed and speed beats power. Whenever I’m up against my sparing partner and I feel less power, and I “try harder” to be more powerful it never ends well. It weakens my power, decreases my speed, and throws my timing way off.

I’ll never outpower someone who is stronger than me. All I can do is back it up and work on my timing and speed (which, to say the least, is tough at my age).

This is how boxing is similar to leadership. Leaders who don’t acknowledge their weakness or insecurity or fear will “try” to be more powerful by using their positional authority. Like in the boxing ring, this won’t end well. As Margaret Thatcher said once, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you, you aren’t.”

Leadership, like boxing, is much more about timing than power. When you get promoted, after all, you don’t get more power. You get more accountability.

Like in boxing, work on your timing, your connections, your balance, the fundamentals – and power will naturally follow – through your presence, not your position. “Trying” to be powerful will only weaken you.

My questions for the day:

  • What does “timing” mean in your world?
  • What would you describe as your fundamentals – that increase your ability to influence?
  • How is leadership for you about presence rather than position?