Leaders succeed through influencing people and outcomes. If you want to inspire followership, you need to lead authentically, curating the right team culture as well as implementing strategy and ensuring good governance.
To create a culture of trust, a leader needs to be conscious of their leadership purpose, use courage in decision making (particularly during uncertainty), and use compassion to navigate difficult emotions and situations. These are the foundations of authentic leadership.
Authentic leadership inspires, impacts and transforms. As we navigate the next new normal of COVID, we need authentic leadership in our organisations and institutions.
What is authentic leadership?
Authentic leadership is integrating your innate intelligence. Growing scientific evidence supports that all decision-making involves thinking (the mind), intuition (the gut) and emotion (the heart). Each of these organs has a significant number of brain cells that connect directly with your brain.
When you integrate your thinking and intuition, with compassion, you build a culture of genuine trust, authentic collaboration and voluntary accountability. This results in higher employee engagement, which, according to Gallup’s extensive research, leads to higher levels of productivity, profitability and customer engagement, amongst other business benefits.
So how do you know your leadership is authentic? There are 3 critical elements:
- Making conscious decisions, particularly during turbulent times
- Choosing the path of courage when the answers are not clear
- Compassionately navigating change
Leadership is about influence and impact, not directing and controlling people and resources. To shift from managing to leading requires a lift in your consciousness to have an intentional impact on others. This is how you create a leadership legacy.
Start by understanding why you choose to lead. Your purpose in leadership will determine the choices you make. Providing financial security for your family may mean prioritising roles with higher financial benefits over roles that are more meaningful for you or that may help you broaden your skills and experience.
Next, learn to manage your mind. Your mind is like a muscle, it can be trained to become mindful of your thought patterns, which drive your behaviours and over time these become your habits. This I call awareness, one of 4 proven dimensions of wellbeing.
Changing the outcomes you achieve starts with managing your mind and making different decisions in the present moment.
Courage, the critical component of change
In the current climate, where nothing is certain, you need the ability to change rapidly to respond to external circumstances. Change happens, immediately, in this moment, when you make a different decision.
To make that different decision, you need conscious awareness and the courage to choose change over comfort.
We all make unconscious choices every day and to some extent, our brain requires us to reduce the cognitive load on it by reducing the decisions we make. Brushing your teeth is usually not a conscious decision; you’ve developed a habit to do so twice a day. This is the useful aspect of what I call ‘decision making on autopilot’.
But when you want to make a change, this requires a conscious choice, not autopilot decision making. Making any change feels uncomfortable as there is some risk involved. The higher the risk, the more the discomfort. Changing your coffee order in the morning feels less risky (and more comfortable) than changing your career.
Courage is almost always a conscious decision and it closely follows the resolve to change something in your life.
Compassion Converts Fear Into Action
“Self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.” Kristin Neff
In the ancient yogic tradition compassion is used with mindfulness to accept reality and work through what is going on inside of you, rather than act it out in your life. It’s about confronting your shortcomings and failings with the understanding required to grow from the experience rather than berate yourself with self judgement. It allows you to insert a ‘pause’ between feeling and reaction.
Compassion is a key element to support courage. In an uncertain and unpredictable world, when we fail, we need compassion to pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes in order to grow.
By making consciously courageous decisions with compassion, you can transcend the busyness of your mind and create purposeful leadership. This purpose will provide meaning to your working life, enhancing your wellbeing and enable you to build a culture of trust and high performance.
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