NO. We are not talking about giving a red rose and a greeting card that says, “I Love You” and asking to go out on a date kind of love. We are talking about a different type of love. One that creates loyalty, one that creates respect, one that creates trust, one that creates a bond and commitment to one another.
The most respected leaders are genuine beyond just being an effective business leader, delivering business results and getting a high score in employee surveys. Being genuine? Yes, it sounds a lot easier in writing but not easy for all the leaders to put their authoritative ego off and be genuine beyond that.
Unfortunately, quite a few leaders that you come across today have an artificial mask to go along with their fancy job titles. And you definitely know the ones who have ripped off their artificial masks and exposed their genuine self. Because, the ones that are able to do so are some of the most respected leaders in the world.
What do I mean by being genuine? It can be pretty broad. So, I tried confining that to 4 simple but quickly actionable ones. I bet there are other ones as well but these 4 are a good start.
Share personal journeys: One of my favorite things to do is to understand the personal journeys of the people around you at work. We all have had incredible journeys to reach where we are and to become who we are today, both personally & professionally. Knowing your journey will help your team recognize who you are and what you bring beyond your job title as a leader / manager. In the same way, you knowing your team member’s journey will help empathize and appreciate what they do. I was talking to one of my new team members last week and he shared an inspirational story. He has a Corvette and I was complimenting him that he has a cool car. That gave me an opportunity to know a part of his journey and what it meant to him. This was a story of a 13 year old young boy who earned $10 as his first salary for washing cars. When he went back home with $10, his dad asked him what he was going to do with those 10 bucks and he said, “I am going to buy a Corvette”. 40 years later he bought a corvette and called his dad the same day and told his 93 year old dad, “Your little boy did what he said 40 years back, dad. I bought a Corvette today”. This helped me understand his personal attachment to his Corvette, the story behind it, his dad being his personal hero and beyond that knowing a man who will do what he sets his mind to. No matter how long it takes. One of the first things I recommend to any new leader setting up a team is to have a personal journey session where the leader as well as team members will know each other’s journeys and what they value beyond the day to day business deliverables.
Say, “I Don’t know”: As a part of my personal development program, a few years back, I was shadowing a leader. He was very kind to let me shadow him for the entire week. I was part of all his meetings and interactions and I learnt a great deal of things during that week. He was one of the most effective business leader in the organization. During breaks, he would also share his insights and views on how he manages his organization. While I am still utilizing some of his insights to run my business today, there was one thing that he mentioned which I did not and will not agree. He mentioned that he never says, “I don’t know” to his peers, stakeholders, leadership or team members as that will expose his weakness. Obviously you don’t want dangerously expose your weakness to anyone but, “I don’t know” to me is an integral part of being a leader. “I don’t know” will help you learn new things, no one is going to help you learn something if you never say, “I don’t know”. Sharing your opportunity area with your team is key to being an effective leader. That way, your teams will know when to back you up and be there for you. This will also help your team see you as a genuine individual than an artificial dramatist.
Be your true self: Last week I was in Tucson and was having a breakfast conversation with one of my team members. It was a casual conversation and we touched on multiple areas in business and while discussing travel plans ended up on a philosophical topic about family. It was about breaking our lives into weeks and realizing that half of those weeks go for sleeping, remaining half at work / travel and with what’s left after kids moving out when they become adults, you technically have just a few hundred weeks with your kids. Being a mother and a grand mother, she became very emotional with this topic and so did I, thinking about my toddler and how much time I actually have with him. It was a deep and emotional conversation. But that helped me see a loving mother and an amazing grand mother beyond an admin assistant. I am sure she saw a caring dad in me beyond just some random guy whose calendar she manages. The bond and connection this creates is invaluable for any team. Being your true self also creates a great deal of trust with your team members and colleagues.
Ask, “What can I do better?”: When was the last time you asked your team for feedback. One BIG missed opportunity for any leader is asking for feedback from their team. If there is one group that has a microscopic view of your leadership style and your opportunity areas, its your team. It’s not that I don’t value feedback from my leaders but its my team that is a primary customer of my leadership style than my boss. Often, the big boss’s ego gets in the way of asking the team members for feedback. By the way, asking for feedback is just one piece, are you ready to take the feedback openly and work on it? It’s a question only you can answer. If you get past that and get into a regular cadence of taking feedback from your team, you will not just become a far better leader but develop a new level of trust & respect with your team.
It might be interesting to re-visit the 4 areas mentioned above and conducting a self assessment of your personal leadership style and approach to each of them. Being a genuine leader requires a lot of courage. But, at the end of it lies an amazing leadership experience and journey that is totally worth it!
About the Author: For more information, contact Balakarthik Venkataramanan at firstname.lastname@example.org. LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/balakarthikv