We all have days as leaders, when it feels like our cape fell off on the way to the office. Admitting it is being human. Asking for help when you need it is being authentic. Well beyond saying we all “put our pants on the same way” now enters the need for humanity amplification, which is simply a more descriptive and actionable way of saying be more authentic. In this and the coming years, leaders need to amplify their humanity and be less robotic or automatic in their leadership. But leaders of all levels struggle with this. They struggle with the concept of authenticity, despite dozens of resources that claim to teach it, because the barriers are significant. Leaders see themselves as having great risk in showing anything less than completely put together, know all the answers types of behavior…or so they think. But what if humanity amplification is simply the way in which you put authenticity into action? What if both will help you to become a better leader? And what if both could be done even if you believe your people skills are a zero on a scale of 10 to 1? Here are some prized action steps and options.
1. Talk About It
If you are a private person or grew up hearing the slogan “never let ‘em see you sweat”, the thought of talking with team members about your problems might seem inappropriate. Humans have issues and humans often connect through the sharing of these issues. But here’s the tough stuff: in order to be the kind of leader you believe you need to be, it will be important to listen to the very advice you would give those you lead when you are sharing issues or topics with which you struggle. In other words, talking about problems just to hear your own voice might be authentic, yes, but less of an effective approach to leadership. Talk about struggles or issues with solutions you would expect employees to give you if the roles were reversed.
2. Work On It
Leaders who are task focused in their preference and do not wear emotions, nor their heart, on their sleeve, are inclined to find the action item needed to fix any problem or issue. They seek out what needs to be done and which actions are most appropriate, quite by nature. Those who are more emotional and focus their priority on people, are more compelled to ask employees how they feel about a situation, circumstance, or interaction. Both are needed in leadership and both aid in problem solving. However you approach the environment in which, and team with which, you work, consistently strive to work out problems and find solutions. Your journey to the solution shows humanity and a lack of perfection vastly different than the reputation received by those who appear to have all the answers.
3. Reveal It
Similar to working on it is the revelation of the process you’re following. Some solutions are found as if working out a maze. There are dead ends when the deal you knew would happen, doesn’t. There are false leads when you think that budget money influx is just around the corner, and it isn’t. And there is a need for persistence. Your humanity is seen in how you overcome, get through, persist, and break down barriers and obstacles. Reveal your process. Some leaders act quickly, as if driving a bull dozer, and others take the time to consider several options internally, as if playing the role of research scientist. Share your process, as those who keep their solution seeking journeys hidden may appear to be frustrated by employees who wonder what you’re thinking and how you got there.
Based on how much and how often employees and leaders and co-workers operate on assumptions, the repeated statement that we are ALL quite different, likely cannot be said too often. We are. We process, approach, think, react, respond, and share in ways others don’t understand. Yet, in leadership, growing frustrated with a team member who simply doesn’t understand just how human you really are and how you think about things, and what bothers you, is like getting mad at someone who doesn’t speak English when that’s your only language. Being an authentic leader means you might say how frustrating their interpretation is and be willing to talk about how to see the same situation or problem similarly. Being an authentic leader means you may be the only one who sees the good in a situation and takes a risk to speak up and explain why you see it that way. Amplifying your humanity would entail accepting differences, knowing in your gut that most will not see things as you see them. It entails an element of vulnerability, a dash of confidence, freedom from fear of judgment if people knew you weren’t perfect, and most of all a willingness to, on occasion, let them see you sweat through an issue, finding a solution together.
Ready to Take the Become a Better Leader Challenge?
Each Monday Moment shares a Become a Better Leader Challenge relevant to that week’s topic. This week your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is a big one. Consider an issue, change, or directive in your organization with which you disagree or struggle, but have acted as if you’re on board with, and begin to reveal a bit more truth. Consider stating how you actually disagree with this approach AND while you feel that way, you will continue to find workable solutions. Be authentic, by revealing you’re human, while showing you’re a leader who is truly committed to moving forward.
You’re on your way and you’re ready to become that better leader by Monday.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!
Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.