Leading with authenticity
On the 30th January 2020, we held one of our Mixer events. These are our full community events which are a blend of inspiration plus time to connect and meet up with other Bloom North Connections.
Rachel Wilson, Recruitment Operations Manager, at the Candidate attended the event and wrote a brilliant blog afterwards summarising her key takeouts. This blog was first published on The Candidate website, but we also get the joy of sharing it with you all!
I recently spent the afternoon at the Bloom North ‘Leading with Authenticity’ event, where all things relating to successful leadership were discussed. The panel was made up of, Drew Povey, Lorna Hawtin, Kenyatte Nelson, Jennifer Atkinson, and Danielle George, and led by Natasha Lunn, Features Director at Red Magazine. The panelists discussed their own experiences to a sell-out crowd, examining both their own leadership styles and those they had come across throughout their respective careers.
To begin the event, all the panellists were first asked to describe their own leadership styles in three words, and there were a variety of answers given, highlighting what an interesting discussion was to come:
Drew: Realist, optimistic, learner
Lorna: Energetic, curious, humble
Kenyatte: Empathetic, non-hierarchical, authentic
Jennifer: Real (Northern!), humorous, direct
Danielle: ‘Proceed until apprehended’ (as described by a student of hers)
Jennifer explained to the crowd how she took over a business at 34 and almost immediately needed to make redundancies. This challenged her ‘need to be liked’ and highlighted her thought that ‘women worry about what people think’. It was a challenge to get around the fact that not everyone is going to like you, you genuinely can’t please everyone. Jennifer worked with a coach to help her overcome this need to be liked, ‘we have sports coaches, PTs, why not one for people in business’. She challenged the idea that we should take emotion out of leadership decisions, ‘if you don’t feel, you can’t be passionate’, and instead talked about how we should embrace emotion.
The difference between the long-term and short-term effects of leadership decisions was discussed and it was Kenyatte who highlighted the challenge of finding the right balance within leadership roles. He said how it’s important to have a clear destination in mind, ‘does the decision get us closer to the destination’, if it does, no matter how hard the decision is, we should be prepared to make it.
‘Motivation starts within’
Lorna’s experience highlighted to her that it’s important to recruit the right people. It’s not a leader’s job to apply motivation to their team, ‘motivation starts within’. Jennifer agreed, stating that if your team believes in you, they will get behind you; believing in someone can be a great motivator. An authentic leader is someone who can motivate without going out of their way to do so; someone their employees believe in; someone not fake. If by being authentic rather than fake, we occasionally make mistakes/fail in some areas, is this ok? Lorna talked about the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi – the acceptance of imperfections. It is important to accept your own failings/cracks in order to develop as both a person and a leader.
It was noted that happiness and success are intrinsically linked, ‘creating happiness leads to success’ said Drew Povey. He told the audience that The News is 6 x more negative than 10 years ago, and while this statistic wasn’t necessarily a surprise, it is important to note how negative the outside world can be. Creating a place of work involving happiness and humour can directly motivate the workforce and lead to better results. Enjoying the workplace, and indeed the work you, do will almost certainly increase your belief in the leader who instilled these practices.
‘You can only be what you can see’
Is there a difference between male and female leaders? Do they face different challenges throughout their careers? Lorna, who was surrounded by strong women growing up said she doesn’t note any tangible difference between male and female leaders. However, she did note that this is a privilege that not everyone has; she always had female leadership in her life so always accepted it and never questioned it. On this same point, Danielle discussed how she never had a problem often being the only women in her field of work, that was until the balance shifted and she found that women had more confidence in their own ability in front of other women. This realisation came from a lady she interviewed alongside a predominantly female panel, someone who excelled in the interview and told her after it was because she didn’t expect that many women to be in front of her. ‘You can only be what you can see’ noted Jennifer; it is unlikely that more women will become leaders without seeing women who have become leaders themselves.
There was a brief discussion about whether if we shape our behaviour to fit the situation, are we still being authentic to ourselves? For example, if we are different people with our children than with our employees, is one of those people fake? Kenyatte talked about the importance of situational leadership and the value of adjusting your leadership style to fit the group of people you are wanting to influence. It is not fake to adjust your style to get the most out of the people you are with at the time.
Key Learnings on Authentic Leadership:
- In order to progress into leadership, it’s important to let go of the need to be liked – sometimes you’re going to have to make the decision that people don’t like for the good of the business
- Being authentic to your true self can often lead to your workforce believing in you more.
Being that person who is honest, not fake and bring happiness to the environment can motivate people to get behind them.
- Inspire others. Be the person you want others to be; be the person who inspired you to get into business – ‘You can only be what you can see’
- Learn that situational leadership is not you being fake, but understanding your surroundings and adapting to be the best leader you can be.
Thank you to Rachel for writing this brilliant summary. Whether you're already a successful leader, just started in a leading position or strive to one day attain a leadership role, this is all great information to keep in mind to make sure you're an excellent leader!
For more blogs from The Candidate, check out https://www.thecandidate.co.uk/blog/