Are you a Role-Player?

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Are you a Role Player?

By: Kumar Dattatreyan

In my career spanning over 30 years, I've played a lot of roles.  I've been a cook, a bartender, a waiter, a manager, a developer...you get the point, and in all cases, I played the role with gusto, digging into the details of what makes a great <fill in role> and trying to be the best at that role. 

When it comes to leadership, it's hard to really "play" the role of a leader since being a leader is so much more than the role.  It's about being present and engaged in conversation with peers and the people you lead.  It's being able to zoom out and see the big picture, taking a systems view of the team, department, division you lead and also being able to zoom in to the people who are in your care and to get know them personally, care for them deeply and help them reach their full potential.  In fact, I'd say that it's not a role that you can "play", rather its a role you must embrace fully as much as you do your life.  

That might sound a little fluffy, however, being around a lot of people who were in leadership roles, I was struck by how many of them were players and how few were authentic.  The Authentic Leader all share qualities that I strive to nurture and develop as a leader.   

"Seeing" The Self

Authentic leaders have a keen understanding and awareness of their beliefs and values and find ways to express them throughout their daily lives without regard to whether they're in the workplace or somewhere else. Authentic leaders show up as their true selves every day drawing on their self-awareness and self-management in service of the people who they lead. Authentic leadership is NOT about adopting the styles and behaviors of other leaders. It's finding your own style, and being authentic to your values.

Developing Relationships

Developing relationships with team members is of critical importance to a leader. Compassion, understanding, empathy and trust building are all critically important to building resilient and high-performing teams. Being an authentic leader can decrease your team members stress and help improve their morale and productivity. Understanding and "seeing" the system that their team is a part of, and recognizing the intelligence of the team is a skill that sets apart authentic leaders.

Listen and Observe

Great leaders know that listening can be more empowering than speaking. Effective communication skills are key to building trust with your teammates and getting them to buy into your vision. Effective listening is a combination of both verbal and nonverbal communication skills that can be learned and practiced over time.  Sometime all your people need are someone that truly listens to them without judgement or condition and being able to give this gift is sometime all people need.

Asking powerful questions

While being a good listener is important, part of great listening skills is being able to ask powerful questions that generate dialogue.  Generative conversations are where innovation happens and being authentic can enable an open exchange of ideas.  Open ended questions help you get there and being genuinely curious and empathetic will hep you stay powerful!  

Shifting from traditional, hierarchical structures to structures that support empowered, autonomous teams requires a mindset shift away from managing resources and towards coaching people. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford found that the most successful individuals tend to fall into the “improving” or “growth mindset” category. Consequently, leaders who focus on developing people can influence teammates to adopt a similar mindset of constant self-improvement.

Unlock your True Self

Do you come to work with your guard up? Unable or unwilling to share your true thoughts and feelings on topics of importance? We've all been there however, authentic leadership depends on letting your guard down and being vulnerable. Authentic leaders don't hide their mistakes out of a fear of looking weak. Being authentic takes practice and people sense that in your vulnerability, they can trust you and look to you for guidance and wisdom. Authentic leaders are self-aware and self-actualized and don't need to act one way at home and another at work.

That's but a few of the qualities and attributes I see being important as an Authentic Leader.  What have I missed?  What resonated with you?  I'd love to hear your feedback!