Good leaders are both leaders and followers. They are extroverts, introverts, and everywhere in between. Your unique personality is essential to who you are and how you engage with others. Authentic leaders build genuine connections. Becoming a leader requires a personal commitment to a lifelong journey of learning. We are all responsible for our learning journey and you must be intentional about learning.
Leading authentically and influencing others through acts of service are the bases of genuine relationships. Your impact will go beyond those you are now associated with and engaged with.
Ways to build genuine connections;
- Start by saying hello (with a smile)
- Be curious about people (find a connection).
This means asking questions and finding something to connect with them about. About a year after I moved to North Dakota, a new family moved in. We were sitting in a classroom at church, there were only three of us. I leaned forward and said hello and proceeded to ask this woman about her family. That was all it took, someone, to be kind and say hello. The impact you make on another person is never through a grand gesture. It is the small, simple moments.
- Be deliberate about nurturing the relationship.
People need to feel seen and valued. This means checking on them and sending handwritten thank you cards. I met a new CEO and had a great meeting with them. I invited them to an event. A few days before the event, I sent an email reminding them of the event and saying I looked forward to seeing them there. They not only came to the event but also brought a coworker. The next day I sent a quick email expressing my gratitude that they made time in their busy schedule to attend and asked if there was anything I could do for them. Taking the time to reach out build relationships.
- Please don’t force it. Not every relationship will work.
Sometimes there is no connection there. You may not have something in common, and that is okay. Some relationships take time. Some take years. One person needed me to earn their trust and respect through my actions before we could start a relationship.
Authentic leaders serve others – seek out opportunities to serve with humility through your actions and behavior. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Real leaders do not serve to lead their interests.
Authentic Leaders’ Core Values
Authentic leadership is about being you and making room for others, too. It includes a healthy dose of common sense and ethics. In today’s workforce, people are inspired by honest leaders willing to roll up their sleeves and work alongside them.
Authentic leaders are:
- The first to show up in the morning and the last to leave at the end of the day
- No task is beneath them.
- Serve in many ways
- Do not seek perks for themselves
- Do not take credit – they shine the light on the entire team.
- Authentic leadership never goes out of style.
Authentic leadership is servant leadership, and it is a lifelong journey. Servant leaders help their team members feel empowered, cared for, respected, trusted, and valued. You will make mistakes, but authentic leaders seek growth and learning opportunities from those mistakes, and they are constantly challenging themselves to be better than they were yesterday.
By Cheryl Viola, Executive Director & CEO, Doctoral Candidate