“I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life or if this work will always be it, but what I’m doing now feels really good— it feels right to be in a team and environment where it’s OK for me to say that and be open and honest with that exploration.” – Alexa, Team Member
How often do you allow team members to be transparent with you and speak openly about where they are and where they want to go? It can be scary, especially when they share this is not their “forever” place; or they’re not entirely sure where they want to go, but they’re clear they’re growing with you. It’s a tough conversation to navigate as a business owner. However, what some may fear to approach with team members or clients is something an authentic leader sees as an opportunity.
I’ve always been good at asking questions like this to my team to learn more about what they need and what kind of culture they want. We do this through one-on-one conversations, transparency in team meetings, surveys, and team retreats.
This open forum allows me to receive feedback so I can best support an environment that fulfills the company’s goals while also supporting my team member’s personal goals and visions.
And in terms of transparency and fairness, it’s aligned for me to ask myself the same questions and get clear on what the answers are.
“What do I really need?”
“Where do I need support as we move forward in our intentions and goals?”
Now, I could just stop here and only answer these questions for myself and keep it all to myself. I could “keep my own stuff” close to the hip while espousing the need for others to be open, but how authentic would that be?
A recent Forbes article headline stated, “Why Authenticity is Now the Most Important Asset a Company Can Possess.”
But what does this authenticity require of you, as the leader, to actually be an authentic leader?
First and foremost, it requires your commitment to being honest with yourself and then leading the way for your team so they can see you’re doing the work you’re asking them to do.
Sometimes this sharing can be difficult, especially when it brings up emotions. As leaders, it can be easy to put on a strong face and pretend everything is okay. We’re societally conditioned that emotion shows weakness and leaders are certainly not here to show weakness.
To this, I call a load of B.S.
Recently I was in a team meeting and found myself in tears as I was sharing something I’ve been moving through over the past few months. It was moving and powerful to be witnessed in my grief. It allowed me to show up authentically and free of fear about what my team members may think. It allowed me to claim the space to “go first.” To model the type of work environment that I desire to create.
Rebecca Campbell explains this well in the Work Your Light Oracle with the Priestess card:
“You don’t need to have it all together to lead. In fact, it helps if you don’t. No one wants a perfect angel who hasn’t made any mistakes. Let your life be your message. Don’t underestimate the power of sharing your story. It’s by hearing someone else’s journey that we feel less alone. We realize that we’re actually in this thing called ‘life’ together. The difference between a leader and a follower is that a leader has the courage to go first. In stepping out, they shine a light on the path for others to venture forward too.”
How much authenticity is too much?
Clients at my corporate training events often ask, “but how much is too much to share?” “How do I know if I’m being helpful or just too vulnerable?”
This Adam Grant quote highlights this beautifully: “Authenticity without empathy is selfish. Authenticity without boundaries is careless. Be true to your values, but show regard for others’ values.”
Authentic and soulful leaders are role models, advocates, space holders, and take the first step on the journey. Authentic leaders model how to show up authentically. This creates a safe, brave and inspiring space for your team members to show up more fully themselves, to share ideas, to not be afraid to admit a mistake, to communicate more honestly, to step into their potential and flourish.
When I shared my story of what I had been working through and allowed the tears to be present, this gave my team members permission to be more transparent. This permission leads to more connection, idea sharing, and team alignment toward the goals. Much like Alexa’s share in the quote at the top, it creates the space for your team to recognize and be honest about what they need, too. Through this knowledge about what’s going on with our teams, we as leaders can be empowered with the necessary information to guide our teams toward the goals. Without the full picture, it’s like steering a ship with only half of a map.
And this openness with your team starts with you.
How to be a more authentic leader
Contrary to much of the thought leadership and conversation out there about what companies ‘need’ to be doing for their employees, if you’re the leader (particularly of a small team or business), I’m inviting you to ask, what do you need for yourself?
It’s by nurturing yourself first that you’re better able to show up in service of what your team needs.
Questions to consider for yourself as a leader:
- How are you being called to step up and lead?
- How can you be the leader you wish you had?
- Where can you be more authentic and transparent with your team?
We support business leaders in their leadership and growth journey to unlock their deeper potential while creating business structures and team support that aligns with who they are and where they desire to take their business next.
I’ll be sharing more on my leadership and business transformation over the last year, including shifting from a team of 10 to 5 over the last year, and how that’s leading to greater joy, success for our team, and improving my ability to lead.
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