October 24, 2014
Fri 10, 2014

The truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth: Why that’s surprising when heard from our leaders

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In The Best Corporate Apology Ever Posted to Twitteryou have a company willing to poke fun at itself while saying “sorry”. My first reaction after reading the tweet – this must be a great place to work.

 Apologies are a good measure of leaders’ ability to tell the truth. How leaders apologize, and unfortunately, too often it’s whether they apologize, tells us a lot about them and the companies they represent.

The same applies when a leader invites us in to hear exactly what they think.

Former RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal certainly let it all out when he blasted his former company board for firing him after a misdemeanor domestic violence offense.

Regardless of what you think of the man, here’s a global leader in the technology field willing to set the record straight from his perspective. Some might argue he had nothing to lose.

But he could have done what many others have done in such situations – shut up and let everyone else create the story. The counsel leaders often receive when controversy swirls is to retreat and say nothing.

The downside of taking this approach is that we get no sense of the leader, the values that drive him and what he’s willing to stand up for. Also, you’re stuck with the story that everyone else has written and told.

In our hyper-connected, always-on-social-media environment, few leaders stand out as wanting, or able, to deliver authentic messages. Odd when you think that all around us leaders are communicating 24/7 and authentic has become the word that supposedly defines who we are.

My last post discussed how talk of transparency among leaders actually undermines trust, and examined what leaders can and should do about it. Trust flourishes when leaders bring authenticity to everything they do.

Often I am asked to help leaders find their authentic voices.

There are many definitions of authentic leadership, but a consensus seems to be growing that it includes these four attributes:

Self-awareness: This is often called emotional intelligence. It’s an understanding of the strengths leaders bring to the table, the weaknesses (we all have them) that they need to watch out for and the values that guide them.

Relational Transparency: This is a willingness to share personal thoughts and beliefs while recognizing some emotions are not appropriate for the workplace or other public environments. (Read more in Be Yourself, but Carefully.)

Balanced Processing (Civility): When leaders take into consideration diverse viewpoints and input, they often are able to make much richer decisions. Balanced processing requires actively asking for different viewpoints and seriously considering all input in making decisions.

Internalized Moral Perspective: This is a positive ethical foundation that guides relationships and decisions and cannot be compromised by outside pressures.

Times have changed. What we expect from our leaders goes far beyond a firm grasp on the bottom line. It’s a tall order to be an authentic leader.

Next week: The decline of empathy. In my next blog I will talk about how empathy enhances communication and relationships in attaining trust for not just leaders, but all of us.