Authentic means getting rid of the B.S. and buzzwords and layers of ‘protective’ crap. Sharing who you truly are is the best way to establish a connection and build trust with your team.
The only way I know to roll back the tide of all the meaningless jargon in our world is to say what you really mean.
Words spoken from the heart and the gut are clear, concise, meaningful, and genuine. They help ground you and your team. They signal that you are willing to take a stand for something you believe in instead of watering down your beliefs with complicated words so you will not offend someone or so your simple thoughts will sound more important. It is imperative that you realize such approaches have exactly the opposite effect.
Using buzzwords makes you sound less intelligent. Filling your leadership philosophy with obscure or difficult to define concepts diminishes peoples’ trust in you. Both behaviors are counterproductive and hinder you from reaching your goal of becoming an authentic leader.
That is why you are here, isn’t it?
Allow me to share a story that demonstrates the trouble jargon-filled leadership philosophies can cause, as well as how an executive avoided such a trap.
I know several executives who were members of the same senior leadership team. After a reorganization, their new boss, Jared, worked hard to get the team to gel. After several months of effort, it simply was not happening. The team members were mistrustful both of Jared and of each other. Team meetings were painful and one-on-one sessions with Jared were even worse.
The team was quickly devolving into chaos. Jared decided he would break through the dysfunction by getting everyone on the team to know each other better as people and as leaders.
He held a three-day long offsite where he and a consultant he knew well worked with the team members on leadership. They discussed what leadership meant to them. They related leadership to the corporate competency model. They discussed job descriptions and how they could make leadership stand out as a critical skill set.
The seminal event of the offsite required each leader to share their leadership philosophy with the group. The expectation was the philosophy would be a typewritten document they would read aloud.
Jared read his leadership philosophy first. It said all the right things. It emphasized the importance of teamwork, trust, hard work, and fun. He read it passionately and thoughtfully. When he finished ten minutes later, he asked every other member of the team to share their leadership philosophy with the group. After the third reading, the room sounded like a beehive from all the buzzwords.
Craig, one of the team members, grew more and more visibly uncomfortable and frustrated with every reading. By the time all the other team members finished reading their leadership philosophies, Craig’s lips were nothing more than a short, thin line covering his clenched teeth.
He gently shook his head from side to side as he stood to take his turn. He set his typewritten leadership philosophy homework aside and took a moment to look each of his colleagues in the eye. Craig’s gaze stopped at Jared. With a calm, clear voice Craig stated “My leadership philosophy is simple. Say what you mean. Do what you say.” He then turned and took his seat again.
With eight short words Craig had said more than every other member of the team – combined. Those two sentences enabled him to swat away the buzzwords and quickly share a clear articulation of his standards, his beliefs, and his code of conduct. Everyone on the team instantly knew what he expected of them and what they could expect of him.
Craig’s statement was practical and applicable to every interaction he could ever have at work. Just like that, he demonstrated the power of one well-crafted leadership maxim. As a result of Craig’s actions several members of the leadership team later shortened their own philosophies and the members of Craig’s team always knew how he felt about any situation and what he planned on doing about it.
Mike is the Managing Director for thoughtLEADERS, LLC and a published author, you can find his books and more information about Mike, here.
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