“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

Dalai Lama

We are living in unbelievable times where revolutionary, authentic leadership is needed more than ever. Due to the special situation over the last few months we have all learned a lot. One key finding have been realising that our leaders and colleagues are down to earth people just like the rest of us.

During the numerous virtual meetings we have got to witness wide range of feelings and behaviors from crying to barking and everything between. It is great to know that we do not differ from each other too much after all. This has brought us closer together. Bringing human back to business is a phrase that has been mentioned frequently in several world- class online webinars and articles. To succeed in leading organizations  in the human centric ways especially in times of crisis, is closely tied to good self- awareness of a our leaders. Now it sure is the best time to dig deep into ourselves. Because who we are is how we lead. 

In the the fallouts of the  COVID -19 pandemic people are hungry for better and deeper connection. They look authentic leadership in order to keep up with the work, stay productive and feel safe and secure within their organization.

How does authentic leadership look like and how to make it real? 

Authentic leadership is fully embracing who you are. It is about leading from the heart, instead of  armor. The key  for authenticity is strong emotional self-awareness. To effectively manage others, you first need to know yourself. You do better if you accurately understand your strengths, development areas and values. This creates clarity  around your purpose and let you speak candidly about your vision. Self-awareness also makes it easier to develop emotional balance. While authentic leadership is often characterized by transparency, it is important to balance openness with self-control.

When stressful situations inevitably arise, the ability to stay calm and clear-headed is critical – everyone looks to the leader in a crisis to see how worried they are. This does not mean you need to hide your emotions and cover up, but speak about them in a simple understandable way. You can lead by example, show vulnerability and at the same time teach how to neutralize the difficult emotions we all have during crisis. When you speak and let  go of your armor, the people will follow your example. 

Authentic leaders are also empathic leaders who have the ability to recognize the emotions they have themselves and how feelings impact on their behaviour. In addition, they sense others’ feelings and how they see things. With empathy you can listen attentively to understand the person’s perspective. Without this crucial skill, there is no connection, trust or knowledge sharing. Empathy with self-awareness feeds the moral aspects of authentic leadership and builds  strong, innovative and brave organizations.  

3 tips how to strengthen your authenticity as a leader: 

Build a safe space 

Authentic leaders are comfortable being vulnerable which includes treating others with compassion and being accountable for their actions. They share their perspective honestly and encourage productive debate in their team. They foster an environment that supports learning, growth and mentorship by building a safe space, where everyone`s ideas and opinions are valued and shared without judgement. 

Hold people accountable 

Authentic leaders are not afraid to set boundaries, but they know how to do it with compassion, showing what is ok and what is not ok without shaming or blaming anyone. People enjoy working for leaders who are accountable for their actions and treat everyone fairly. They know that clear is kind, behave accordingly and expect the same kindness and clarity from others too. These employees feel themselves heard and inspired. They are comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions, even if these might differ from their leader’s, and they find meaning in their work beyond the day-to-day which keeps driving engagement. 

Choose what is right instead of what is easy, fun or comfortable 

Authentic leaders have faced their biggest fears. They know how to manage the uncertainty and uncomfortable feelings that are part of being a leader without running and hiding. They face the challenges with brave heart and are willing to do what is needed in order to save and protect their business and people. Sometimes this is making hard and honest decisions that will hurt someone and when it happens, they are there to provide the support as long as it is needed. 

Authentic and brave leadership is being available for others when they need us. In order to succeed, you need to start from yourself. You need to be available for yourself first and be curious about your own feelings. Especially now, afetr COVID -19 pandemia we all need to learn dealing with uncomfortable feelings and how to rise strong after setbacks. New revolutionary times are waiting ahead. We just need to start the courageous journey towards it. Read more and take the first step. 

“We will be judged by our actions today for a long time to come” Andrew J. Scott, Economist and Co-author of the book The New Long Life: A Framework for Flourishing in a Changing World.

Ilona Lott, Human Element Solutions in collaboration with Riikka Seppälä, Sitomo

SITOMO I Designing strong & resilient organizations