As a frontline leader, you're often in the eye of the storm, navigating the challenges of managing teams, executing projects, and meeting objectives. Yet, amid these duties, one underlying factor determines your success: trust. Trust isn't merely about dependability or reliability; it delves much deeper into the psyche of leadership. At its core, it's about authenticity—being a leader who is genuine, relatable, and transparent.
If you want your team to willingly and enthusiastically follow you, they must trust you. And for them to trust you, they must see you as a real person.
Let’s talk about what that means and how to bring it into your leadership style, your approach with your team, and how you view yourself as a leader.
The Power of Authenticity
Many leaders ascribe to the “fake it til you make it” approach, projecting an image or a persona that they feel lends them some authority or respect. Authentic leadership is basically the opposite; it's about being genuine and true to oneself, even in moments of indecision or difficulty. Being an authentic leader means you're not afraid to show your vulnerabilities, share your experiences, and admit when you're wrong. It means you're real.
In contrast to what many (not very effective) leaders will tell you, vulnerability isn't a sign of weakness; it's a testament to a leader's humanity. Leaders who aren't afraid to show their emotions, admit their mistakes, ask for forgiveness or ask for help are often the most respected. When your team sees this side of you, they realize you're not infallible—you're human, just like them.
Consider this: People are more likely to trust someone they believe understands their struggles, hopes, and dreams. They gravitate towards leaders who are candid, transparent, and approachable. In essence, leaders they perceive as 'real people.'
Where projected personas create distance and distrust, authenticity creates a unique bond—a shared human connection that transcends professional barriers.
Character and Trust
Authenticity is multifaceted. It's not just about openness; it encompasses character and vulnerability as well. Having a strong “character” means you know your own values and are willing to stick by them even when things get tough. For instance, maybe one of your values is kindness. Do you operate from that value when one of your employees makes a time-consuming mistake during the dinner rush? Or do you abandon it out of frustration and yell or belittle?
A leader's character is tested in difficult times, and it's in these moments that authenticity shines brightest. Leaders who stand by their values and principles, even when it's challenging, exemplify true character.
Building Trust through Authentic Communication
Authentic leadership is in large part internal. It’s the way you see yourself as a leader, your level of self-awareness, and your ability to follow through on your character when things get tough. But because authentic leadership is in large part about relationships, authentic communication is a key tool in your toolbelt as a frontline leader.
If authenticity and vulnerability are showing your team that you’re a real person, authentic communication is about showing them you see and care about them as real people, too.
When you need to communicate something to a team member, remind yourself to first pause and focus so that you can be intentional with your listening and your words. When you take the time to focus on someone and genuinely listen to what they have to say, even amid distractions, it signifies respect and understanding. Pausing your thought process and granting someone your undivided attention can make a world of difference and do a lot to strengthen relationships between you and your team.
The Authentic Leadership Journey
Today, change is constant and the expected pace of service seems to be constantly quickening. It can be a struggle to manage a frontline and even more difficult to manage yourself as the type of leader you want to be. That’s okay. Being an authentic leader isn't a destination; it's a continuous journey. It's about always evolving, learning, and adapting.
Remember: your challenge isn’t just to lead, but to do so in a manner that makes people want to follow you. Exerting authority is a cheap shortcut to “leadership,” and one that will fall apart the second challenges arise. A title doesn’t make you a leader. The way you conduct yourself with your team does.
By embracing authenticity, showing your genuine self, and fostering open communication, you can pave the way for a trusting and engaged team, ready to conquer any challenge. Embrace authentic leadership and watch the transformative impact it has on your team and organization.