It was the brilliant Oscar Wilde who said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.
Yet in many quarters of society we see people who silence their opinions and lose their authenticity in an attempt to be liked by everyone or to appease both sides of an ideological divide.
The same thing happens in the corporate world. In their effort to build relationships and secure an internal support base, leaders can lose sight of who they are and what they stand for.
Losing your identity
Why does this happen? Because some people think that to be influential and successful they need to be someone other than themselves and align their views with those they want to impress and forge relationships with.
Consequently, they lose their identity, which can do enormous damage to their confidence and sense of self-worth.
It also impacts how people perceive and relate to them – and therefore damages their reputation as a leader.
Colleagues will notice when a person shifts and changes their behaviour and ideas to fit in with other people’s desires or expectations. They notice the disconnect between what the person says and what they do.
In the end, this breeds distrust within teams, as the person’s credibility and integrity is put in doubt. Once that happens, it becomes much harder, if not impossible, for them to build a coalition of support for ideas and projects they are leading. Any influence they might have had is now gone.
(Read our certification story about why good leadership in HR requires courage).
Be authentic and stand up for your beliefs
When people no longer know what a leader stands for they start to question their intent. It becomes harder for people to gauge whether an action is being taken for the good of the team, or because it was requested by someone else in a position of power. This makes collaboration and progress harder to achieve. In time, it also puts the leader’s career on the skids.
In contrast, good leadership is evident when a person is authentic and stands behind their values, has a clear personal brand and behaves consistently. When this happens it is far easier to connect with them and build a long lasting relationship. This is because you know what you will get when you collaborate and engage with them. There are no surprises.
(Want to know what one of the world’s top CEOs thinks HR needs to do to lead? Read our interview).
Challenge yourself to practice good leadership
- Do I know what I stand for and what are my values?
- Do I know what drives my behaviour?
- Are my words and actions aligned?
- Am I consistent in how I operate?
Answering these questions will provide insight into the congruency of your leadership style. But that’s just the beginning. It will help if you go one step further and ensure that you are:
- Be open to feedback from those around you – and at different hierarchical levels. Get direct feedback from people and be willing to reflect, and where required, act on that feedback in line with your values
- Prepared to self-reflect – so that you are able to take the time to see how you are feeling, thinking and ultimately reacting to what is going on around you in order to practice good leadership.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. She works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress in complex environments. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’. For more information: visit www.michellegibbings.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.