Leadership

Authenticity may be the most important trait of successful leaders

Many people pay a lot of money to coaching organizations to become better leaders. Executive leadership coach John M. McKee says there's a more effective and less expensive approach.

"John, I need a coach to teach me how to be a leader. I'm good technically, but recently I was promoted to a role I never expected. And, in all honesty, I'm not prepared to lead a team."

That was a real call I received years ago. I hear a lot of people say similar things all the time. As markets return to prior levels, more organizations are hiring. And more people are getting promoted again. You may find yourself in a similar situation, if you haven't already.

So, what should you do if and when you are bumped up the ladder? Is spending money the best first step toward becoming a good leader? I say, "NO!"

And if you think it is the best first step, you may end up spending money with a career development organization or individual offering a "program" that's really just some well-packaged canned tips and styles that, while good on paper, may never feel authentic.

And that -- authenticity -- may be the single most important trait of successful leaders.

It all starts with you being real: Most of us have a kind of radar that alerts us when someone is spouting lines that they don't believe in. Many studies show that by the time we reach adolescence, we're already pretty savvy at recognizing BS.

My advice? Before you spend your hard-earned money to "learn" how to be a leader, take these steps:

First -- make a promise to yourself that you will always be authentic. Keep that promise.

Next -- take some time to reflect about the best boss you ever had or witnessed. Describe him/her to yourself. Write down what attributes come to mind. Noodle on things like:

  • Was he/she strong?
  • Did he/she show any interest in your personal life?
  • Was he/she successful? In both work and  personal life or just one?
  • Was he/she healthy and/or fit? Or overweight/unhealthy?
  • Was he/she highly smart or just average in the IQ arena? ("Life smarts" are not always due to IQ.)
  • Did he/she typically "tell" or "ask"?

Questions like these will help you assess what you care about when it comes to leadership. They help you decide what kind of a leader you want to be. This is important. All skills in development need to be thoughtfully planned and implemented before they become strong and a part of your fabric.

Of course, your situation may be different. But the key is this:

Start acting like the boss you'd want above you. Do it using your own authentic style. This will greatly improve your chances of being proud of yourself as a leader. When we're proud of ourselves, we're more open to new ideas and less defensive. And success breeds success. In all likelihood, you'll grow and become a better boss. But what if it doesn't work? To be straight with you, it may not. In that case, you learn to make "running changes" by modifying your style. Adjust. Test new approaches that resonate with the real you.

If you practice your style consciously and thoughtfully, you will surprise and impress both yourself and others.

That's guaranteed.

- John

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

7 comments
hauskins
hauskins

as I call it is what happens when people take on management roles and go to leadership academies etc. Many times I have a hard time understanding what they attempting to communicate. I am a manager and I use the 'authentic' approach. It seems to work well for my small team. When I go to large scale meetings and speak, some people look at me is if I was speaking a foreign language.

ivoyhip
ivoyhip

is it a good thing a boss show any interest in personal life of his/her staffs? Personally, I do not like my boss to pay attention to my personal life. I like to keep two world separate.

BarbaFroid
BarbaFroid

I heard a similar speech by a priest who spoke of another priest: Once you know a man like him, you have two alternatives: either the envy, or you learn from him! But if in your life, you don't encounter any great man?

jtnieves
jtnieves

You just destroyed the business plans of several thousand self-help gurus holed up in various Marriott hotel conference rooms nationwide. Really. This is great stuff. Thanks!

blarman
blarman

... Until they know how much you care. Want to be a great leader? Go to bat for your people and watch them go to bat for you. Don't care? Neither will they.

blarman
blarman

... Until they know how much you care. Want to be a great leader? Go to bat for your people and watch them go to bat for you. Don't care? Neither will they.

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

Trying-on new approaches, testing new ways of communicating are all part of the process. Don't hesitate to experiment. As long as you keep it "real"

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