When I coach executives enrolled in Duke University’s Global Executive MBA program on the topic of leadership, Personal Leadership is the first place we start. It is impossible to influence and lead others if you have not learned to lead yourself first.
The process of Personal Leadership is a leader’s decision to know and intimately who they are, what they stand for and what they are willing to live and die for. These are questions that must be answered in order for a leader to gain trust. I often hear from the rank and file that it is difficult to trust those in leadership positions, because they don’t know the leader. I don’t mean knowing details of the leader’s personal life or standard company policies, but fundamental details of the leader’s philosophy, values and beliefs.
Many times there is what I call the Leadership Disparity between what the leader believes the team believes about them and what they actually believe. More often, leaders lead from goals, metrics and performance standards neglecting the need of the team to get to know the heart of the leader. When the heart of the leader is exposed, it creates a sense of comfortability and familiarity that breeds trust.
The single most important leadership trait that will serve the leaders as well as the team is TRUST. People will never truly buy into you or your message it they don’t trust you. The process of building trust is a way of life not an occasion. The process requires the engagement of to voluntarily embark on a journey of introspection, which can be daunting. When you become introspective you will discover areas they may need tweaking, causing some leaders to feel vulnerable.
The critical process of introspection helps leaders discovers their values, philosophy and beliefs which is critical in becoming an authentic leader.
Authenticity is the second most important leadership trait of all top leaders and influencers. I have been told by many team members that they want to follow a leader who is the “real deal”. We crave the security in knowing who and what we’re going to get in any circumstance, as opposed to the “let’s make a deal” model of not knowing what’s behind door number one, two or three. Consistency in authenticity is key…do you walk the talk?
It’s one thing to know your values and beliefs; it’s an entirely different ball game to live them out consistently. Remember, as a leader we are always on. People are always watching to make sure we are authentically walking the talk, doing what we day we’ll do and living out our values and beliefs daily.