What is authentic leadership? The picture that comes to mind when I think about this question is very vivid. It conjures up faces from my past and their behaviors, actions and souls. It's something you know when you see it in action or when it is missing. People often talk about this type of leadership, but do not call it out enough when it's happening in front of them. I recall watching one of my previous leaders teaching me how to engage with his team during a meeting. He listened for most of the meeting, gave input that was appropriate to his expertise, asked a lot of questions and was an active participant during the entire meeting. I remember thinking about how I needed to demonstrate my expertise during the meeting by expressing my opinion on everything. Of course, I was a new member of the team and eager to impress him and the other members of the team, too.
After the meeting, he asked me to come to his office to discuss the meeting. At this point, he gave me a wonderful gift. He asked me what I wanted to achieve during the meeting - from a development and team perspective. I was honest with him (this set the stage for our mentor/men-tee relationship moving forward). I let him know that I wanted to impress him and the rest of the team. He listened to my rational and then imparted a piece of wisdom to me that I still think about today. He told me that the leaders that have stood out in his career were those that were great listeners, communicators, not ego driven and understood that you achieve great things when people feel trusted, heard and valued. He continue this lesson by asking me what type of leader I wanted to be? What did I want people to remember about me as a leader? Why I wanted to be in management in the first place? I took some time to think about it and let him know that I wanted to be a leader because I loved working with people and I thought that I had naturally gravitated towards teams because of my life experiences. I thought that coming from a family of 8 children, playing softball most of my early life and having a nurturing nature were good building blocks to becoming a great leader. He thought about my comments and asked me to think about his earlier questions and come back to discuss them with him. And so, this is how I began to learn more about what authentic leadership looked like and what type of leader that I wanted to be. I'm so grateful for the gift that he gave me during my early years in management. It is something that I tried to share with others throughout my professional life. I hope that in some small way I have been able to positively impact other people in the same way. I continue to strive to be all of the things that he taught me today. I hear him saying " come in and leave your ego at the door"
Ego left at door - CHECK