How can leaders help employees to find meaning?
It’s important to say that finding meaning is the personal responsibility of the individual rather than an organisation. I often meet and hear from employees who blame their boss or an organisation for not having what they want from their career and I challenge them to look at their own mindset, character and behaviour. People need to take personal responsibility for their lives, not seek to blame others for their situation.
I believe that from an organisational perspective there is a growing body of evidence that highlights when a person feels aligned with an organisation and their role aligns with their talents, strengths, values and purpose there are a great deal of benefits to the individual, the team and organisation.
People who love what they do and are aligned with the mission and purpose of an organisation are willing to go that extra mile. They exert more of their discretionary energy, talents and creative intelligence. This benefits them because they grow professionally and personally while positively contributing to the organisation and its purpose.
How can leaders engage with their employees?
Leaders with a team of direct reports should spend quality one-to-one time getting to know each team member beyond work. It’s important to understand what makes the person tick and to find ways to help them do their best work. People love to be given opportunities that grow them while making a difference to the business. The best leaders understand the social process they need to work through in building trust, empathy and professional intimacy with their teams.
If you are the CEO of a large, complex global business the challenges upon your time will be innumerable. Ensure that you have a great story to share with people; this is an effective way to demonstrate you support a culture that believes in the potential of people, stretches them and grows them to be the best they can be. You do this by working on your direct leadership team and by getting out into the business once a quarter to find out what’s going on. Leadership by walking around says a lot about you and the organisation you lead, and having that ability to listen to people from all walks of life and levels is important.
Social media and interactive dynamic media tools have its challenges, but it ensures that people can build a picture of who the CEO is and what is important to them and the organisation. Making these types of communication bi-directional allows people to feel heard, involved and ultimately engaged.
What is authentic leadership?
Authentic leadership will have different meanings for different people, communities, and organisations. In essence, it is a desire for leaders to be themselves, to speak and listen with honesty, to challenge and stand up for cultural values and beliefs that are important to them personally and to the organisation. People increasingly wish to see leaders walk their talk, and play with a straight bat.
Are there negatives leading without authenticity?
When you are in a powerful leadership role the negative consequences of not leading with authority can be huge. Take Enron, News International, and the financial sector in general: some might suggest that their problems can be attributed to a lack of authenticity.
Equally, it may be that greed and short-termism are part of these corporate and political cultures and therefore they were being authentic. It’s important to say that a few people operating outside of the cultural norms shouldn’t represent an entire organisation or industry, but in today’s dynamic media-hungry world, they often do.
At a deeper level, authenticity is associated with morals, ethics and it means to do what is humanly right. You don’t need a textbook to teach you these principles; they are hardwired into most of us, regardless of our personal background and education.
Why is authenticity important when leading?
On a more emotional level, I think it’s about leaders who own up when they make mistakes or get it wrong and who are willing to share a level of vulnerability by being honest about the lessons they learn and how far they are along their own professional journey. CEOs and leaders are often put on pedestals and I believe there is nothing more energising than when a CEO treats people with humility, dignity and respect; irrespective or their role, title or perceived power base.
Leaders can do all of this by being real, honest, open, and candid. In today’s world, people often forget that you can be successful and moral at the same time. Leaders who walk their talk gain followership, and they galvanise people to follow them. Listening to people and actively demonstrating that you have time to stop and listen is one of the most simple, profound ways a leader can make an impact.
For more information about coaching and the Association for Coaching please visit www.associationforcoaching.com.