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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 3, 2015 4 years ago

Are you an authentic leader?

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By examining your values and priorities, you can learn more about what drives you as a leader — and who's most likely to follow you.
by: Denise Federer Bottom-line Behavior

Recently I was asked to provide leadership consulting and coaching to a family-owned business. The current owner/CEO was structuring a succession plan to include his two nephews. These cousins, who are now in their late 30s, had grown up very close and expressed great affection and respect for one another. In fact, they had been college roommates and were in each other's weddings.

However recently whenever leadership decisions needed to be made regarding the company, they were at odds with each other. Their viewpoints were often diametrically opposed to one another, and discussions frequently got heated. Both of them expressed concern over the other's perspective and behavior. Additionally, their differences at work were negatively impacting their personal relationships.

When I met with each one of them to assess the situation it became obvious that in spite of growing up together they emerged as adults with different values and priorities. One cousin was more of a “prosperity thinker.” He felt a sense of optimism about everything working out in life. He was comfortable spending money and wasn't concerned about what he considered the “little details.” He was seeking work/life balance and believed that cost to achieve pleasure in his life was worth it.

The other cousin was more of a “poverty thinker.” He was cautious and tended to be pessimistic about the outcome of decisions. He also was focused on the details that would impact a decision. He admitted to me a great sense of frustration about his cousin's unwillingness to put in the hours and work as hard as he did.

These cousins were clearly polarized in both their thinking and aspects of their value systems. However, understanding the impact of these differences on their decision making was the first step in learning how to work together more collaboratively.

As a leader, when was the last time you examined your own values or those of your peers or direct reports? Do you find yourself being in conflict with a “star performer” in your company whose priorities make you uncomfortable? Or perhaps you are consistently disappointed in the decisions another peer or leader in the organization makes? If you can say yes to any of these scenarios, chances are you are experiencing a disconnect in your value systems.

What do you value? The list of potential values is long, ranging from advancement to zest and including knowledge, excitement, wealth, recognition, challenge, joy, self-expression and many more. It's no secret that different people value different things, but have you ever stopped to think about the correlation between values and leadership?

Your behavior, which includes everything from how you treat other people to how you make decisions, is shaped by your values. It's a natural phenomenon that those who connect with your values are likely to be attracted to you, and conversely, you may not get along with those whose values conflict with yours.

Is it a good strategy to change your values to try to get along with everyone? Absolutely not. While your values may organically change over time, that happens because your needs have changed; it shouldn't occur at the behest of someone else because that results in the opposite of being authentic — something all good leaders should strive to be.

Authentic leaders are role models for moral and fair behavior; they don't just talk the talk, but they walk the walk. They behave in ways that are consistent with their values. Their leadership style is transparent and they make realistic choices, understanding that those with similar values will follow them, while others may not. It all boils down to this: authentic leaders never apologize for their values and they have the courage to follow through on what they believe. Being an authentic leader is about how you behave when no one is looking.
What makes you tick? Gaining this understanding can mean the difference between success and failure as a leader — and it's key to helping you feel in control, knowing why you do what you do.

The starting point in this process is to determine what motivates you. Your primary driver may be found on this list:

Gaining approval from experts.

Making money.

Succeeding on your own.

Gaining respect from friends.

Competing and winning.

Working hard and excelling.

Gaining recognition from peers and within your industry.

Or, you may be motivated by something else. Regardless of what drives you, it's the basis for your values, and it will go a long way toward determining your success in the business world. As you grow to understand yourself and your values, you'll find decision making is easier, as is surrounding yourself with like-minded people who will be drawn to your authentic self.

Denise P. Federer, Ph.D. is founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group. She has 27 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. Contact her at: [email protected]

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