How to be an authentic leader

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Authentic, raw, real, vulnerable, open, honest. All hugely popular concepts in 2020, and all things that people are looking for in a diverse range of places—from the influencers they follow on social media to those that lead them in the workplace.

Being an authentic leader means genuinely relating to your team and investing time and effort in establishing meaningful relationships with them. The payoffs of cultivating authentic leadership are enormous; including trust remaining at an all-time high, eliciting greater productivity, enjoying a more positive working environment and a whole lot more.

Here’s our take on what it really means to be an authentic leader, why it’s so important, and how to harness the power of being vulnerable.

A cultural shift towards vulnerability

While the idea of leadership is still rooted in the concepts of strength and power, there has been an undeniable cultural shift in the last decade or two that has turned the stereotypical meaning of ‘strength’ on its head.

When once the notions of toughness and stoicism in our leaders commanded respect, now it’s seeing the real human underneath the facade of strength that helps people relate to their leaders.

Take Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern for example. She is compassionate, empathetic, emotional and entirely imperfect – and that’s what people love about her. She embodies the antithesis of the leadership stereotype; you get the sense that she knows exactly what it is that she stands for and what her values are.

Brené Brown, a professor and vulnerability researcher at the University of Houston, speaks extensively about the power of being vulnerable when it comes to leadership. She says ‘vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.’

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Encourage genuine self-reflection in your team

So what does that mean as a leader? What does it mean for you, in the real estate context, seeking to galvanise and motivate your teams? The answer is simple, but challenging: building teams who are self-aware, open and courageous means encouraging, and engaging in, fundamentally tough conversations.

Tough conversations are exactly that; really tough. In a work environment especially, our collective impulse is to quickly arrive at solutions; to answer the question – but in this rush to resolve issues, we miss out on the learnings that tough conversations so often offer up. A persistence to get to the root of a problem is a cultural behaviour that we as leaders should be encouraging: not settling for a quick solution and a conversation that is comfortable, but pushing through the discomfort to uncover the truth that lies at the core.

When once the notions of toughness and stoicism in our leaders commanded respect, now it’s seeing the real human underneath the facade of strength that helps people relate to their leaders.
Set an example

It’s incumbent upon us as leaders of our industry to model the openness and vulnerability that we want to see in our teams. Brown advocates for us as leaders leading with our ‘whole hearts’ – being prepared to leave it all out there for our work and our people. This is how we get the best out of people; by demonstrating the behaviour that we want to encourage.

Modelling authenticity means bringing your whole self to work, it means ‘letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.’

In the words of Brown, choosing authenticity means:

  • cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable
  • exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle
  • nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are strong enough.

What do you think being an authentic leader looks like? How do you reflect on your own leadership? Let us know in the comments on Facebook or below!

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