By Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty and winner of Standard Bank's Top Woman in Property Award 2020
In recent years, the conventional "top-down" style of management has become less and less effective and, with the decline of the traditional office model, the millennial influence, the impact of the digital age and the growing number of people working remotely, it will soon be completely ineffectual.
People are no longer happy just being told what to do; they want to be fully engaged and feel as if their contribution matters. They want to be acknowledged for their work and they want to believe in those who lead them.
But in order to meet these higher expectations, leaders have to be able to do more than merely issue instructions and plan strategies. They must also be able to inspire passion, teamwork, loyalty, trust and confidence and this requires a much more authentic leadership style.
However, becoming an authentic leader is not always easy because it requires leaders to be genuine, self-aware, and transparent which takes considerable self-reflection as well as the conviction and courage to always strive do the right thing.
That said, I believe it’s well worth the effort because if you are able to inspire trust you will always be able to find solutions. People will invariably be more willing to be open and honest, especially about problems and they will be inspired to be proactive rather than ignoring issues in the hope they won’t be noticed.
To better grasp the concept of authentic leadership, one needs to understand its four key components:
Self-Awareness – It’s only by knowing your own strengths, limitations and values that you can truly embrace this style of leadership and motivate others. It’s also a prerequisite to being able to develop the other components of authentic leadership.
At this point, people often find themselves caught in a crisis of confidence, knowing that it takes self-promotion to become a leader and to inspire trust and confidence in others, but also that there is a fine line between self-promotion and the perceived arrogance of self-inflation.
Relational Transparency – when you are being genuine, you are able to openly share your thoughts and beliefs. And authentic leader is honest and straightforward and does not play games or have hidden agendas;
Balanced Processing - authentic leaders are balanced in their approach because they solicit opinions, welcome opposing viewpoints and consider all options before selecting a course of action;
Internalised Moral Perspective – an authentic leader displays a strong moral code in their actions and decisions and is driven by a concern for ethics and fairness.
Ultimately, authentic leadership is about transparency and about sharing feelings and motives openly with others through open communication – and by being real in our relationships with others in the workplace.
When authentic leaders demonstrate relational transparency, people always know where they stand which allows for better decisions, better productivity and less time wasted on sorting out problems, many of which are usually avoidable and unnecessary.
At the end of the day, authenticity is a leadership skill like any other and one that can be developed over time. But it’s a critical skill if your aim is to lead your team as well as they deserve and in the manner that you, yourself, would like to be led.