We want our leaders and teammates to be real. And for good reason: Because we believe that everyone has inherent greatness in them. Fake anything and the team will reject you like the body fights an infection.
Yet, despite the fact that the experts on authentic leadership are clear about its importance, why is it that so many work environments face a deficit in this area? The answer: The trap of judgment.
When authentic leadership goes wrong, it takes this 8-step course:
1) The entire team cries, “We have to change!” and targeted values and behaviors are posted on the wall.
2) Maria, a member on the team, longs to be truer to her “inner compass.” So she commits to functioning from cherished values more consistently.
3) The next day, Maria is accountable to her commitment and tries behaviors that are different than those she modeled yesterday.
4) Her peers are caught off guard: This is not the Maria they knew. She’s acting strange! (Suddenly, my security is at stake because I can’t predict Maria’s behaviors as I could before.)
5) This leads me to the trap of judgment: Because Maria’s behavior isn’t normal, I claim that she’s not being natural – making a mistake about the difference between these two dynamics.
6) My claim of Maria being inauthentic is shared with others – who follow my focus and therefore agree.
7) Maria senses a verdict from the team, and to ensure she isn’t rejected from the community, capitulates by reverting to old behaviors.
8) The team collectively breathes a sign of relief: predictability has returned. Then, we resume complaining that “nothing changes around here. We need more authentic people.”
Our world has been disrupted. Our behaviors of old won’t get us where we need to go. Authentic leadership works when we respond with authentic leadership: practice empathy and support others in their quest to be an even greater expression of themselves.
When your teammate acts differently tomorrow what will you do?
Lead us in the change.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net