“A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Authenticity is one of the most important traits for quality leadership. The tendency for a lot of us is to put on a persona at work, and not be ourselves. The problem with this is that people can see through us in a minute, and all trust goes out the window. People need to count on their leaders for the truth.
Living and working in Minnesota, I see first hand the problems that go along with people not speaking their mind. “Minnesota nice” is the term. People are reserved and polite in meetings, then voice their true feelings at the water cooler.
I ask teams I work with to drop the Minnesota nice. I tell them that if you disagree with me, I encourage you to speak your mind. Being a New Jersey native, disagreement will not hurt my feelings.
Healthy debate is good for teams, and we need people who will challenge our ideas and positions. At first people are uncomfortable being candid, but after time they open up as you build trust.
Building trust is an exercise that all leaders can and must do. They do it by aligning their actions with what they say. If a leader tells the team they will do something and then doesn’t deliver, the leader immediately cut all trust from the team.
I strive to be as authentic as possible in both my personal and professional life. I want people to know that what they see is what they get. Whether we’re in a meeting at work or running into each other at the grocery store, I’m the same person.
Being authentic is not always easy though, especially at work. Let’s face it, we do have to deal with politics and we need to be somewhat mindful about how we express ourselves. Being candid doesn’t mean shouting out whatever comes to mind, with no filter. If you are tactful, you can still express your thoughts, feelings, and ideas without fear.
From an organizational standpoint, it’s crucial for leaders to foster a culture of honesty and openness. It starts at the top, and this behavior should align with the core values of the company.
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