Everybody yip-yaps about authentic leadership – Can you learn how to be authentic?
Aren’t you getting increasingly sick about the overused phrase authentic leadership? Sure, I have used it here and there too. It was not until I read a few posts online that extensively harped on it before I finally got confused what this really means. More importantly, how can you learn to be authentic?
Along with this phrase come a few more buzz words that are also non-descriptive. The leader ought to be authentic, she should provide contagious energy, she should be engaging the audience’s senses, she should be demonstrating vulnerability and perseverance, she should be exuding confidence, she should be personable, she should be believable, she should be a great listener, and have a load of charisma if at all possible.
Isn’t it hilarious how these adjectives are very descriptive and meaningless at the same time as they are not really all that exact? It is all subject to individual interpretation and yet every one of us kind of sort of knows what it is supposed to be about.
In short all of the above describes a state of being. It proves the adage of all nonverbal communication driving more than half of what people see. Roughly a third is your tone of voice and only a small amount of communication is through the actual words that you have chosen to convey your leadership.
Here it’s something that one has to experience personally in order to really understand, learn, and then practice it daily. So what we are talking about here is appealing to the senses of our counterparts: Tone of voice, demeanor, mannerisms, facial expression, gestures, choice of words, etc.
To demonstrate this I have picked two random videos of CEO’s; not just any CEO, but airline ones. Just about all airlines claim how they love their customers and employees and invite us to fly their friendly skies. Words and facts represented should do the trick right? I don’t think so. How does Delta’s own Richard Anderson strike you (Click here for the video)? Now compare this to Southwest president Colleen Barrett (Click here to watch her in action)?
Fascinating, isn’t it? When you unravel why Colleen is fairing so much better you may have noticed the traits that let her stand out:
- She is totally focused on others and not herself.
- She shows vulnerability by being moved by the contributions of her team members.
- She makes the speech all about them and not herself.
- She makes eye contact with her team members.
- How many things can you point out?
Why is she so much more believable – authentic – than Richard? At the bottom line it shrinks down to one thing for me and I am hoping that I have stirred your snow globe a little with this again: It’s her servitude. How willing are you to serve others before yourself?
She is going through great lengths making the event to be for her team members and not all about herself. That is so different with Richard. He sits in the middle of everyone’s attention, and when you really listen to the customer conversation with him, even that sounds fake and forced.
Did I mention that mastery of serving your team makes your more successful too? You haven’t heard about how greatly successful and admirable Delta Airlines is, right? There is a reason why they are where they are and why Southwest is such an admired and overall successful brand.
Surprising, isn’t it? Being an authentic leader boils down to serving others with your brain, heart, and soul; then your personal and company’s endeavor will become organic and long term sustainable. Parking your ego will be the first and most important step you can take. Don’t you like the simplicity of this concept?