21 February 2018

Experts: If you want to be a true leader, be authentic!

authenticity is the key if you want to excel in leadership, SAY two top experts. and even the best leaders can’t walk on water.

Know yourself — not just as a leader, but also as a human being. That is the secret to being an excellent leader, according to industrial psychologist Susanne Ulveman.

“As a leader, you must know who you are and acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses. Beyond that, you must be authentic to your employees, peers and management colleagues. A leader succeeds in collaboration with others, which requires that he or she listens to the surroundings.”    

Be a good judge of character
Back in times past, a leader could simply just give out orders, say “no comments” to the press and otherwise just manage the company as he or she saw fit. Today, however, times have changed and different qualities are needed to gain respect as a leader.

“It is highly important to be a great judge of character. On the labour market today, Management are working together with various types of people and therefore, it is necessary to know how to treat people differently in order to treat them similar,” says Susanne.    

Even though it conflicts with some leaders’ self-image, they really can’t walk on water. 

She continues:

“Some employees must have clear goals, others need to immerse oneself in the work, just like various generations need to be managed differently. Everyone must have targets, but you can adjust the approach on different terms, and that is pivotal for a leader to make results in 2018.” 

Do not get caught up by your success
Another leadership expert, and professor emeritus, Henrik Holt Larsen, also agrees that authenticity is of key importance. As a leader, both authentic modesty, self-criticism and an acknowledgement of one’s own limitations are necessary. If you have these qualities, you’ll likely make a better leader.  

Henrik summarises:

“Even though it conflicts with some leaders’ self-image, they really can’t walk on water. Some of the best leaders are humble, can acknowledge own strengths and weaknesses, gratifies on others’ successes and qualities, can avoid getting lost in the sweet power and not get caught up in the success.”

See also: Strengthen your leadership through motivation

Concentrate on yourself
At the same time it is pivotal that the leader acknowledges the employees – and particularly the specialists, says the professor:

“You must not starve the specialists when it comes to responsibility, development opportunities and ownership of the good solutions because then you steal their pride. In short, leaders must give the specialists good opportunities to unfold their professional competencies. The consequence hereof is that you can concentrate on your own specific job – to be a leader!”

Look at yourself
As a leader you therefore must dare to ask the difficult questions. If you continuously experience the same criticism with regards to your leadership skills, you must take it seriously.

“You should ask yourself why you get the same feedback or why there are challenges that you fail with. You must take a look at yourself and be honest. But despite the honesty, it can be difficult to change the behaviour of yourself, hence it can be helpful to speak with someone from outside the organisation, for example a coach,” says Susanne.

She continues: “Today managers often lead on an unsure foundation, because the company changes all the time. Thus, it requires that you have a good sense of propriety and courage, so that you both can manage the changes of the organisation, but also understand the employees’ pattern of reactions, incentives and motives.”

Lose the temper
Even though you may feel you are doing the right thing, there are some things that leaders should avoid – even if they are authentic feelings. As a leader, your number one job at work is to create a thriving workplace for your employees. And thus, it is important to be aware of not letting your passions run away with you. If you find yourself raging at your employees it can result in anxiety for them and foster an atmosphere of fear in the organisation.

Employees should be able to come to their leader and ask questions – and feel like there is room for it.

“If you know that you have these characteristics, it can be unsuitable for the culture in the company, hence you should process it with the purpose of using it constructively. A raging temper should be managed, because angry leaders create a terrible culture,” says Susanne.

She concludes:

“Likewise, you should also be able to manage characteristics such as impatience. Employees should be able to come to their leader and ask questions – and feel like there is room for it. As mentioned, you only succeed as a leader if you have the employees with you.”

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