Authenticity, Participative Management, Being “Naked”, and Other Effective Leadership Techniques
Murray Horowitz, Regional Director of Sales for American Income Life (AIL) Insurance Company, shares his insights on being an effective and transformational leader. However, these suggestions are not actions that you can check of your “list”, they require changes in perception, attitude, and behavior.
There is no question that if leaders are to remain effective, they must evolve and continue to grow constantly. And therein lies the challenge—and the opportunity. “There is an opportunity for real leaders to shine—those who are inspiring, humble, bold, visionary and courageous,”
Even during good times, such positive leadership traits may seem elusive. How do leaders cultivate and demonstrate these traits today, especially in the face of so many other challenges? Experts suggest they simply can’t afford not to, and they offer the following suggestions for business leaders to remain at the forefront of leadership.
Transparency Is First and Foremost
“In today’s uncertain business climate, there is no more powerful leadership attribute than the ability to be genuinely honest about one’s weaknesses, mistakes and needs for help,” Nothing inspires trust in another human being like vulnerability—there is just something immensely attractive and inspiring about humility and graciousness.
Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, champions the concept of “getting naked” in his latest book of the same name. That concept is all about authenticity and breaking down the walls between people to foster trust, connection and collaboration. “So many…feel the need to demonstrate that they have the right answers and that they don’t make mistakes. Not only do people see this as inauthentic, they often feel that they are being condescended to and manipulated. What people really want is honesty and humility.”
Honesty is especially crucial when it comes to acknowledging the problems at hand. Leaders should address major concerns openly and frankly and show that they recognize the impact the concerns are having on their team members and subordinates. This way, leaders demonstrate that they all share a common goal and that, despite the enormity of the challenges ahead, everyone is on the same team, fighting together.
Involve the Team in Finding Solutions
Openness often leads to better problem-solving.. “Be transparent and allow your team to help you find solutions to your largest challenges,” You don’t have all the answers, and science is showing that a group of committed collaborators trumps a single genius for finding amazing solutions.
Plus, just the act of involving team members in addressing a need simultaneously answers another desire: “They want a stake in things; they want to know they have contributed and been heard,” “They want to become part of the system that is the business in which they are involved. They want to lessen the gaps from executive to front line and the real issues, and they plan to do it in real time.”
Earn Loyalty by Serving
Working to develop trust between leader and follower will yield loyalty—an undervalued commodity that leaders only earn when they realize that their purpose is to serve those whom they lead.
“When you closely examine the core characteristics of what really makes for great leadership, it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders.” “Rather, it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives, then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps and survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur.”
Seek unique ways to develop and support the people you are privileged to lead.” In his best-seller The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell calls this trait The Law of Addition: “The bottom line in leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others,” he says.
Maxwell suggests showing employees they truly are valued by taking time to listen to their ideas, complaints or suggestions and letting them know they’ve been heard and understood. He also suggests making it a practice to perform small acts of service for others without seeking credit or recognition for them. These could be as simple as collecting money around the office for an employee who’s running in a charity fundraising marathon or supporting an employee who wants to pursue continuing professional education outside the office.
On the flipside, it’s also important that leaders make themselves valuable to others by teaching skills, providing opportunities, or sharing insights and perspective gained through experience. By pursuing their own personal growth—whether informally (trying to improve upon key areas on a daily basis) or formally (through professional workshops and classes)—and passing those lessons on to others, leaders add value to their own lives and to their team members.
Lead by Example
“More than anything else, employees want leaders whose beliefs and actions line up,” Maxwell says. “They want good models who lead from the front.”
As a leader, you need to be a role model for your team. This means that if they need to stay late, you should also stay late to help them. Or, if your organization has a rule that no one eats at their desk, then set the example and head to the break room every day for lunch. The same goes for your attitude – if you’re negative some of the time, you can’t expect your people not to be negative.
Another way to lead by example is to maintain personal accountability for one’s mistakes, no matter how high-profile the leader’s position or how damaging the error.
“One of the most disturbing trends among leadership over the past decade is the tendency to make excuses for inexcusable behavior or mistakes.” “It is essential for effective leaders to own their mistakes and explain how they will correct those mistakes now and prevent them in the future. Few of us expect perfection of our leaders, but most of us respect a leader who can be humble enough to admit when she or he is wrong.”
The best leaders hold their employees accountable as well, setting and maintaining high standards for all to follow. “Today’s winning leader is not just here to weather the storm; they are here to completely change the game. You will witness these leaders engaging all people as active participants in delivering value creation, and this includes everyone at every level of the organization and customer base.”
Must be Inspiring. An effective leader must possess the ability to inspire others to act. Action equals results and that is what business depends on for success. One does not have to be the perfect public speaker to be inspiring. You can use several approaches such as video clips, excerpts from books or articles or simply have a consistent positive attitude.
Share Your Vision, Show the Way
It’s important for business leaders to clearly articulate their vision, goals and specific plans to achieve them, but even more so during challenging times. A lack of clarity, the presence of ambiguity, obviously flawed business logic or constantly shifting priorities/positions are the death of many a venture. However, CEOs that implement a well thought out and clearly articulated vision creates a sense of stability and a bond of trust amongst the ranks.
Clearly, if people are concerned about their own jobs or the health of the company, being reassured that their leader knows the way out of the quagmire is essential. It’s also critical that team members know how they can contribute.
When employees know the plan, the direction, the mission and the goals, it gives them something concrete and real to focus their actions toward. It helps them understand how they add value to the direction of the company and shows them their own worth toward building success for the organization. One cannot expect employees to take on that kind of commitment if they have no idea what path or direction they are committing to.”
A clear set of goals should not only be articulated throughout the business, to allow all people to shape how their actions add value by meeting specific goals.
Cultivate the Next Leaders
When considering the road ahead, strong leaders must see beyond themselves—beyond their own tenure, as well as their own strengths. “A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession,” Maxwell says.
In such rapidly changing times, leaders must look for successors who possess a variety of strengths and characteristics that will serve the organization as it grows, innovates and weathers future storms. While sharing their own insights and experience, leaders must recognize the value of new perspectives. Strong leaders must not seek to duplicate themselves in their successors, but to help their protégés hone their individual talents and skills.
“Ideally, you should pick people with greater potential than you, who will be able to ‘stand on your shoulders’ and do more than you did,” Maxwell says. “Begin investing in them today.”
Which of these leadership techniques do you need to work on the most? Which do you do the best?
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