Last week, I attended the National Diversity Council’s Annual Women’s Leadership Conference in Toronto. Speakers shared personal stories of bullying, discrimination and internal conflict over a morning of muffins and coffee. The panel of inspiring female leaders each offered their perspectives on what its like to be an authentic leader in the world of STEM( Science,Technology, Engineering & Math). We all want to be authentic leaders, but often there is a murky definition of what it means to be authentic in the workplace. The culture of your team and organization directly impacts how you show up- sometimes unconsciously.
When it comes to authentic leadership—— how authentic are you at work?
Ask yourself if you are assimilating to the culture or adapting too much?
One panelist, a VP of Human Resources told us how she had no problem “being one of the guys” but realized later that it came at the cost of her authenticity. This immediately resonated with me as I recalled my days in all-male corporate teams blending in to survive/thrive. One year into the role, when I brought a colleague to tears, I realized I didn’t recognize myself as a leader anymore and maybe I had adapted so much that I had actually transformed into someone who wasn’t truly me. Perhaps there’s an situation or circumstance at work where you feel like this. So, what can you do?
Self awareness is key. Ask yourself: Is this really your leadership style or is it just what everyone else is doing? ( i.e your adaptation to the norm). If you realize its adaptation, don’t panic. Experimentation with different leadership styles and behaviours is a natural part of everyone’s career journey. Self awareness leads to choice and change.
2. If you could summarize your aspirational leadership style in 3 words, what would they be? ( i.e Inspiring, Thought-provoking, Empathetic, Collaborative, Instigating etc)
3. Find a leader who is living these 3 leadership values today. Learn from them- reach out for an informational interview, read their memoir, ask people who have worked with them, follow them on social media. Become a student of their leadership style so that you have guidance at your fingertips. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel and you don’t have to do it alone.
4. What’s 1 action you will take to start living these 3 values today? (i.e Acknowledge your boss for her support, offer courageous feedback to a direct report, open the next team meeting with a personal story/lesson learned.)