Help Wanted: Authentic leaders to drive sustainable business success
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the blog of Dave Wendland, VP, strategic relations at Hamacher Resource Group and Forbes Council Member. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.
Authenticity in leadership is judged by how you behave, how you communicate and how you serve your stakeholders and customers.
I recently hosted an executive roundtable and, largely influenced by the events of the last 15 months, elected to approach the topic from the standpoint of a commitment to authenticity. We identified four actions necessary to demonstrate authenticity in leadership: sincerely showing empathy, being vulnerable, clearly communicating intentions and being consistent.
Here’s my advice on how to get started on each:
Sincerely show empathy: As my late father often said, decisions must be viewed from all vantage points. Put yourself in the shoes of those who are affected by every decision you make. This helps you not only to understand the impact but also to determine the best way to communicate the reason for the action and the benefit.
Don’t fear vulnerability: In my experience, admitting weaknesses as a leader is one of the most effective ways to build trust. Prior to joining HRG nearly 30 years ago, I ran my own company focused on marketing, communications and advertising. It did not take me long to identify areas of vulnerability that unnoticed would have held my clients — and my personal growth — back. The key is recognizing gaps in your abilities and resources, and then surrounding yourself with a strong team that can help you overcome these limitations.
Clearly communicate intentions: Openly discussing why you’re making decisions and why you’re postponing others makes your intentions clear. During the pandemic, we were open with our associates about decisions regarding work-from-home policies, communication expectations and the health of the business, and they acknowledged our openness with gratitude. Such openness fostered an environment that was both supportive of individual needs and kept client projects on track. Also, be transparent about your company’s financial footing, client feedback (good and bad) and the general state of the industry. This can pay dividends, especially during unprecedented circumstances like what happened in 2020.
Be consistent: Words alone rarely inspire trust — honoring your words is what matters most. Make sure your words are consistently backed up by actions, and trust will likely follow.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What traits define authenticity in leadership? Would you add other actions to those cited in the article?