Today's reading, "Authentic Leadership Can Be Bad Leadership" comes from Deborah Gruenfeld, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the Stanford School of Business, and Lauren Zander, founder of the Handel Group, an executive coaching company located in New York City.
The piece notes that most of us would agree that being authentic is of great value. But, what makes me, and you, is not just the good stuff - values, aspirations, and dreams; the qualities others love most. There's also a lot that comes naturally that can get nasty. "When you get overly critical, non-communicative, crass, judgmental, or rigid, you are probably at your most real - but you are not at your best."
Gruenfeld and Zander note that when coaching executives to become their best selves, they often meet resistance. "People don't want to change the beaviors that feel the most natural, even when everyone agrees that change would be good." They say this is just how I work. But, it is also hiding behind an excuse and avoiding the truth about who we are, how we actually behave, and why.
So, how would you encourage someone you coach to 'fess up, find the truth, and change the bad behavior? The authors suggest five steps:
Find out how you seem to others. Ask a trusted colleague, listen (silently), and write it down in the speaker's own words.
Talk back. In private, write down what was going through your head when you were listening. Using your real voice, read it out loud. Acknowledge that this is you.
Find an alternative. What will you do instead when you next have the urge to do the thing that makes you difficult?
Clean it up. Re-connect with those you have been difficult with and apologize. Commit to a clean up plan.
Raise the stakes. If you do the difficult thing again, what will it cost you? Lunch with the "victim"? The consequence must have a cost and be constructive.
Your authentic self should be the basis of your leadership style. But, make sure that you don't display that which limits your effectiveness.
Give this approach a try and let me know how it works. Have a great week!
. . . . jim