Authentic leadership: An approach to leadership that emphasises building the leader’s legitimacy through honest relationships with followers which value their input and are built on an ethical foundation. Authentic leaders are positive people with truthful self-concepts who promote openness.
Authenticity has been at the centre of the leadership conversation for some time now. So much so, that the Harvard Business Review (HBR) dubbed it ‘the gold standard for leadership.’ However, HBR notes that when we simplify our understanding of authentic leadership we can reduce it to something that is counterproductive.
Yes, authenticity is about remaining true to yourself and your principles but it doesn’t mean a complete lack of growth. It means you will evolve and adapt new leadership skills and practices that are in-line with your core values – it’s a more authentic growth.
We know what authentic leadership is and what it is comprised of but we don’t always explore how it affects bigger picture items – namely culture. At the annual All TEC Day event this year, we had a chance to explore not just authenticity but its role in shaping culture and what this means for businesses.
How does it affect culture?
The short answer is that authentic leadership has a very strong positive effect on culture. When an organisation is led by a leader who not only talks the talk but walks the walk, the staff is more engaged and more creative.
Authentic leadership breeds an environment where people know they are empowered to take their own paths. When people are allowed to comfortably be themselves and work in their own ways they are more willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Think of it this way – are people more drawn to confident self-assured people or individuals who can’t quite find their footing? We’ve all had friends who are one way around you and then act completely different around others. It’s not an attractive energy.
When a business is run by a leader that is open, honest and strong in their convictions, the culture follows suit. Not only is the company stronger for this reason but it created an inherent competitive edge – no one can duplicate your unique brand of authenticity because they don’t have the same staff members with the same unique skill sets to create your particular flavour of success.
How do you consciously promote an authentic culture?
So, how can you consciously promote authenticity as a leader? It all starts with defining authenticity as a main pillar of your company culture. Be open and honest with your team about what authenticity looks like. Vocally encourage and praise out-of-the-box solutions to solidify that creative means are supported through your organisation. Instil accountability in your team, let them know how their individual position helps push the company’s bottom line forward. This kind of responsibility helps promote authentic investment in the business.
Above all else, trust your team. Authenticity stems from honesty and conviction. You cannot support an authentic culture without having complete faith in your team and their skills. Let them know you believe in their work and success will follow.
Leaders should aim to be the most authentic version of themselves when they are steering their organisation in any direction. When a company breeds this type of authenticity it allows people to remain true to themselves while working towards a common goal. Authentic leadership is the pathway to an authentic culture which ultimately leads to an engaged workforce and a successful business. This is the ideal pathway for success.
By: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Helen Wiseman
We recently interviewed some of our business mentors and coaches for their best approach to goal setting, staying motivated and striking the right balance between your personal and business life.
If you are ready to step straight into action, then these top tips will give you a head start on goal setting.
1. Clarify your purpose
One integral question we need to start off with when setting goals and achievement is why. This could be answered by your organisation’s mission statement or by clarifying your own role.
An important motivator for goals and achievement is to define your purpose. Capturing the entrepreneurial spirit in:
‘Reasons come first, results come second.’ – Peter Voogd
Some of the questions to ask yourself include:
- Why is this goal important to me to achieve?
- Why am I willing to make the necessary sacrifices?
- Why am I able to keep going in the face of adversity?
Answering these questions will begin to craft your why, which becomes your purpose, and helps to give you clarity.
2. Be organised
The first step to ensure you’re able to remain accountable is to be organised. This means being well aware of what you want to achieve, and creating a method to list and track your progress towards the eventual goal.
This is the perfect opportunity to investigate the many technological solutions that can make tracking goals easier. Many of the people I mentor use an app called Trello which tracks all the various “projects” they have on at any point in time. You can tick them off as you complete them and set target dates for completion to ensure you’re on track.
3. Know your business cycle
Your business cycle will offer a logical window for the best time to set your goals. Find the most suitable time for yourself, your team and your customers to set goals.
Drawing up the goals and visions for your business is an activity based on passion, rather than process. Think about your objectives in the context of upcoming opportunities, current market conditions or the changing circumstances of your business. This can bring breakthrough moments of setting goals in context.
4. Be resilient
Like everything in life, meeting goals involves sticking it out and dealing with the challenges that will inevitably arise along the way. Ideally, to stay resilient you’ll want to try and keep your emotions in check and avoid getting flustered if things don’t go exactly to plan.
How flexible you are able to be with your goals will also affect how easy it is to stay resilient. Be prepared to put some goals aside, add new steps or refocus altogether, as long as they continue to align with a key purpose or vision, you will keep heading in the right direction.
5. Don’t forget to set your personal goals for effective goal setting
The goals you have for your business aren’t the only directives that should shape the months ahead. All too often, senior executives make a plan for the new year that doesn’t account for their own personal goals.
Most leaders spend the majority of their time working tirelessly on the company, to ensure it achieves greater value for shareholders or competes better in its particular market. It’s easy to neglect your personal investment in these goals, the impact on your life as well as that of the company. Answering the question of why, will help you to find a balance.
6. Ensure your bank understands you
It always surprised me when businesses, small or medium-sized, don’t have a relationship with their bank that involves regular meetings and strong understanding about their current status, and expectations for the future.
Everyone needs a bank for a loan from time to time. Either things are going very well and businesses have consumed a bit of their cash with rapid growth or there’s been a hiccup and they need a safety net. If there’s a relationship in place, the bank is much more likely to come through.
If the people at the bank understand a business and its goals and trust the leader, they’re a valuable ally if you need extra financial help. The key is for leaders to have built this relationship far before they need assistance – and that means keeping in touch even when everything is just ticking over as per normal.
7. Find someone to hold you accountable
Depending on the type of goal you’re focusing on, there are a number of people who can hold you to account and ask you for regular updates. A board of directors will have one set of expectations to meet, which may differ from those of your financial controller.
You may be looking for someone more impartial like a business coach or mentor who is aware of what you are trying to achieve but doesn’t have the same attachment to your business. They can hold you to account in a non-judgmental way while still ensuring you’re being pushed in the right direction.
Alternatively, get your family involved, as this is a way to have a positive balance of personal and professional goals, while focusing on objectives that won’t harm your relationships. Again, they offer a valuable perspective on your goals that’s separate from people based within the business.
8. Find opportunities for disruption
Keeping an eye on the future of innovation and disruption is imperative. This is a key business trend at the moment for good reason.
Be sure that someone in the company has time to look at the future with disruption in mind. Either within the leadership team or appoint someone to focus on the future.
Not only do they need to keep an eye out for what may disrupt them, but also ask “What could I disrupt?”. There’s always a chance, no matter how well a business is doing, for an incumbent company to wipe the rule book clear and set new standards for an industry. Then, it doesn’t matter how good a business is compared to its traditional competitors because the goalposts have moved.
9. Give the year a theme
For me, every year is based around a theme that my various goals and objectives are nested under. This mean that when I write goals out, I already have a prompt and direction.
Theming also frames this process but it also does something I find just as powerful: As the year goes along and we all get busy, sometimes we lose track of our specific goals, so I find having an overarching theme in mind provides a constant level of focus.
It could be one word, phrase or sentence.
I normally stick to one or two words. For example, my most recent theme for last year was simply ‘business’, as I had been doing a lot of leadership and not-for-profit work and wanted to reorient more towards the business side of my career.
10. Find motivation
A bit of extra pressure is good for keeping you on track, that’s part of the reason why it’s so important to enlist other people who are invested in your progress. I found there’s a way to take this motivation to the next step with an app called Crew Mojo, which enables other people to follow your various goals and tasks with regards to upcoming deadlines.
Knowing other people are keeping an eye on your promised deadlines helps you take the process a bit more seriously while also creating a channel where you can update invested parties ahead of time if you think a certain timeframe is going to be particularly tough to meet.
Using traditional goal setting along with apps to keep track of your progress is an excellent way to keep momentum in your business and personal life. With the right balance, you can stay accountable and achieve your goals.
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