Leaders: Be Authentic or Beware

CEOs and leaders your role has changed – did you miss the memo?

In reality you probably missed the tweet, the comment on Glassdoor, or the text message because paper memos are no longer a mainstream form of communications.

The boundary between shareholders, the board, customers, and employees has significantly increased in transparency and your ability to navigate through this changing landscape is only part of the new reality for CEOs and leaders.

As leaders you must be a steward for more than the shareholders and the board. The employees and customers are equally important in ensuring the success of the organization. They have access to information and tools that have the ability to help or hinder the organization.  The increase in transparency has put additional responsibilities on leaders in organizations to be authentic stewards.

Your success hinders on a key skill that even the most courageous shy away from, self-awareness. Knowing who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and how your actions and decisions impact others is a key skill for CEOs and leaders.

In order to be an authentic steward you must know who you are and what you value because when you do not know it is strikingly clear to your employees and customers. You cannot hide from them. They are smart, creative, and have increasingly high expectations of their leaders and businesses they choose to purchase from.  When you are not authentic they know it.

They don’t expect you to be super human but the do expect you to be human. 

If you cannot answer the following questions, it is time to start doing the work that will transform your abilities as a leader.

  1. What are your top 3 values?
    • Not generic values, but specifically what do you value and why
  2. What are your top 3 strengths?
    • Specifically, what activities do you do where time flies by, what comes easy and natural for you
  3. What are your top 3 weaknesses?
    • Specifically, what do you procrastinate doing, what do you consistently get tripped up on
  4. Who do you surround yourself with?
    • Do you have team members, colleagues, etc. that compliment your weak areas to make a stronger team or are they all like you?
    • Do others challenge you or say yes to everything you say?
  5. Do you know how your decisions impact others?
    • If you did a poll of your customers and employees would they say the same things?

The best investment you will ever make is the time and energy to get to know yourself. Enjoy the greatest adventure of your life!

The Power of Choice and Conversations

Employees. Each one is an individual with an incredible power – choice. This means every day they can choose to perform at their highest level using all of their skills and talents or not. They can help you develop an innovative product that would help your customers or not. They can also choose to work at your company or not. It is their choice.

As the CEO or leader in the company how do you unleash the vast skills, knowledge, and talents of the people? You can start by asking them and taking an interest in what they have to say.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What improvements would they make?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What frustrates them about the current processes?
  • What do they value?
  • What is important to them?
  • Why do they come to work each day?
  • How would they lead the company if they were the CEO?
  • What obstacles if removed would make their job better?
  • What do they enjoy?

The list of questions is endless the point is that you must get to know them before you can lead them. Even if you have been in your role for years and you met with many of the employees before, take the time to do it again. A lot can change even in 1 year and it is worth your time to find out who is choosing to work utilizing their full set of skills, talents, and strengths. Along the way you will uncover if they understand the strategy that you and your team worked so hard to create. You will also find out if the structure that is in place supports the strategy. You may also discover that key systems that are in place are constricting success. These are all critical insights that you can gain if you engage in conversations.

Taking the time to be present, listen, ask questions, and learn in order to unleash and harness the skills, talents, and strengths of your employees is time well spent. You may feel vulnerable and unprepared but you are not alone. It is not easy for the employees to open up either. Somebody needs to start and as the leader it is your responsibility to engage the employees in the success of the company and service of the customers. You will be amazed at what you will learn.