I think it’s safe to say that the world of leadership has come a long way since our days in corporate management.
In the 80s and 90s, management style was very much about rigid, macho egos and a “my way or the highway” approach.
This style created a set way to behave as a leader, which was echoed in many of the famous films of the time, like the movie Wall Street.
The lines “if you need a friend, get a dog”, “lunch is for wimps”, and “it’s not always the most popular person who gets the job done” weren’t just some Michael Douglas fiction, that’s really what it was like!
However, recently there has been a big shift in the way we look at the role of a leader, and how they are expected to behave.
Over the last 12 months, we have been interviewing leaders across a wide range of sectors in our weekly podcast, The Leadership Detectives. Interestingly, the same four words keep popping up time and time again when we talk about the role of a leader.
In this blog, we will be diving into these words in more detail and figuring out how they apply to the role of a leader today.
In many of the interviews we have run, many guests have spoken about the power of being your true, authentic self when leading.
Being authentic is about being open and honest about what you feel when you’re talking with your teams. There’s no cloak, and no uniform or guard that you create when you show up to work. You are you 24 hours a day.
These days, we feel less worried about being authentic because we no longer feel that it’s a weakness, but back in the 80s and 90s, being authentic wasn’t something that people did as leaders. It was seen as being “soft” or as a weakness to exploit, but we’ve learnt now that’s not the case.
Authenticity is a strength
When you are authentic, you are sharing and engaging with your team at a much deeper level, and it builds up a layer of trust that is massively valuable and actually gets better results!
However, I think for new, less experienced leaders out there, being authentic is still something they worry about. It’s easy for us to sit here in our 50s, with 30 years of leadership experience under our belt, and say we can be authentic, because we’re confident in our ability to lead.
But for a new leader, it might not be that easy for them to be authentic without feeling like they are exposing weaknesses in themselves.
Bravery and courage
Ultimately, being authentic as a leader is about bravery and courage. You have to decide that you don’t care about how you will be judged and you have got to stick to your values. If it’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.
You need to ask yourself the question, “What’s more important: me and my ego, or is it about the team?”
What we have learnt from leaders like Jay Trestain is that when they started being their authentic selves with their teams, it led to a better, more productive and harmonised work environment.
It might seem scary at first, and it will take courage to do it, but if you do, the results will speak for themselves.
Another word we have heard on the lips of leaders these days is humility. Humility is about understanding you don’t have all the answers, and you may need help from others around you.
This is an interesting paradigm shift for a lot of leaders out there, who think that they have to always be right and show no weaknesses.
A good leader makes sure that the people who work for them are smarter than they are; and to do this effectively, you need to have a certain amount of humility. Good leaders can let other people who are better suited to certain tasks, take the lead while giving them air cover.
A humble leader can get the best out of those around them
Sometimes, leaders need to lead from behind with a supporting arm, rather than standing in front; and when things go wrong, they step in front and take the blame. On the other hand, if it goes well, they also share out the success.
These days, personal egos don’t have as big a place in leadership as days gone by. Instead, leaders are more willing to accept that they don’t have all the answers and are leaving their egos at the door in exchange for a more authentic, more humble and more human approach.
Vulnerability has never been seen as a strength in the business world until now. Before, we believed we were expected to have this certain kind of persona as a leader that didn’t have a place for being vulnerable.
The old style of management would say, “We’ve got a business to run, we can’t spend all this time being soft and vulnerable.”
However, as we have seen with leaders like Jay Trestain and Clyde Fernandez, showing your vulnerability engages the team better and gets them working more effectively.
Let the results do the talking
In order to prove to others that this approach works, you have to show the senior management that you are delivering better business results for the board of directors or other shareholders.
Some people may see it as being “soft”, but in reality, being vulnerable as a leader is about a different style of leadership that is applicable in this day and age for the people that you’re leading. When we talk to millennials, we hear phrases like “my manager needs to understand my expectations of them”, which is a completely new way of thinking!
Without showing your vulnerable, more human side, you will never be able to build the sort of trust with your team that is so crucial in today’s workforce and for achieving better results.
Inclusivity has to have no bounds in today’s world. In our view, everybody’s eligible to be included regardless of their disposition, their background or even their capability. Even if they’re not as capable, they need to be included because we’ve got a responsibility to make them more capable.
Clyde Fernandez summed it up perfectly when we interviewed him: “Diversity is a fact, inclusivity is a choice.” We need to choose to go and seek it, because you’re missing out on some of the invaluable skills those people can bring.
The changing dynamic
Leaders these days need to realise that the dynamic of leadership is shifting not because a “nicer” more “fluffy” style makes everyone feel better, but because it generates better results.
In all the interviews we have conducted, it has been abundantly clear that to get the most out of people, to maximise productivity, leaders need to be aware of these changes and adapt their leadership styles to suit a new, more human world.
We are always keen to chat with anyone about how they can improve their leadership skills, so to get in touch, feel free to reach out to us on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, you can find out more about how The Leadership Detectives could help you by booking a free coaching session with us via our website.