Leadership Authenticity

Gerwig 2015-04-08

Do you prefer blinds or drapes? Perhaps neither. Instead, you like the “clean” look of wide-open, uncovered windows. Over time, I’ve observed one’s decorating taste and sense of style significantly impacts their window treatments (how they “decorate” their windows). Or perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about. If that’s you, please hang with me.

Both as a child and now as an adult, I’ve lived in many homes, apartments, condos, dorms, and townhouses. Some places had blinds, some had curtains, some had nothing, some had “sheers” and some had a combination. If you’ve never had the “pleasure” of hanging drapes or curtains, consider yourself fortunate. If you’ve never wrestled with installing blinds, consider yourself blessed. It’s a difficult and frustrating process. So much so that on one occasion I paid a contractor several thousand dollars for “plantation blinds” (including installation). They looked nice and I avoided the headache of installation, but I had to part with some hard-earned cash.

Not only do window treatments look different, they operate differently. Some you pull a string, some you twist a rod, and some you slide. And they also let in different amounts of light. Closed plantation blinds let in some light even when fully closed but heavy drapes can completely block out the light.

Now, if you’re a regular reader of my articles, you know that I generally write about leadership behavior, the character of leadership. While there are many leadership “tools,” I prefer to reflect on the character of leadership and my own leadership behavior. Why? I’m not 100% certain. Perhaps part of it is my wiring, but I believe part of it is because many of the tools are “a dime a dozen.” They come and go like many management and business fads. But the character of great leadership doesn’t change. It stands the test of time. And though it may look a bit different in practice, my experience is that the same character traits make a great leader regardless of world geography.

So where are we? Window treatments and leadership character. As I was looking out of the window pictured above, I realized that the blinds were blocking out much of the ambient light. I had partially closed the blinds earlier in the day because the sun was out. You see, windows blinds, with a simple twist of the wrist, can either let light in or shut light out. You control the degree of transparency from light to dark. Transparent to opaque.

The same is true with you in your relationship with others. You can twist your personal leadership curtain and keep light out or let light in. You can be transparent or opaque. You can be open or guarded. The choice is yours to make but I’m going to encourage you to err on the side of transparency. The reason is, I hope, obvious. Followers respond to transparency. Followers respect transparency. And transparency earns trust and builds relationships. Great leaders know that followers respond when they are truthful, real, and authentic. They know that authenticity leads to trust and strong relationships. And regardless of where you are on the extrovert/introvert scale, you can engage in authentic relationships and communication.

Now a few tips:

  • Don’t share details that are confidential.
  • Be respectful of others. For example, it’s okay to discuss your family at work but don’t say something to a colleague that you wouldn’t say if your spouse were standing at your side.
  • Keep your comments respectful. For example, you can share with others that you’re frustrated, but don’t cross the line and make “ugly” comments.
  • Let others know “why” you’ve made a decision or need an action completed. Sharing the bigger picture provides context that helps others feel valued.
  • Know when to draw the line. You need to know your audience. For example, being transparent doesn’t necessarily mean telling everyone in the office which candidate you voted for that morning, especially if you know there are some who are strongly opposed to your political values.
  • Keep a keen eye open when you’re being transparent and be willing to make immediate adjustments. For example, if you see that your comments are causing others to be uncomfortable, stop.
  • Remember the reason to be transparent is to earn trust and build relationships. You want to find common ground. You want to treat others as you want to be treated. You want to encourage others. You want to help others grow. You want them to understand how they fit into the bigger picture (which helps them understand their valuable contribution to the organization, family or team).
  • Lastly, being transparent requires a good dose of humility and a sense of humor. Be willing to laugh at yourself while at the same time demonstrating a strong sense of personal confidence. If you’re a people-pleaser or worried about what others think of you, you will find it more difficult to be transparent. Just remember that you’re special and unique, a gift. God created you that way. Be real, be yourself, be authentic.

How about you? Do find it easy or hard to be transparent? What “tips” do you have that you can share with your fellow readers?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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