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Whether you’re new to a leadership role or looking to be more effective in times of uncertainty and change, authenticity may be the strategy you’ve been missing. While all organizations are different, some prioritize leaders who are focused more on results and authority and less on the interpersonal connections they make with their staff. Not only does this lead to a disconnect, but it also impacts the organization’s culture as a whole. 

In case you missed it, registration for SURGE Ignite is now open! And we thought, what better way to get your ready than to look back at some of our most popular sessions of SURGE past.  

New leadership strategies are emerging as the modern workplace continues to change. At SURGE Explore, professor and leadership coach Dr. Michelle Johnston explored this idea in her session – The Seismic Shift in Leadership: How to Thrive in a New Era of Connection.

Forget Being Perfect, Simply Be Yourself 

While many leaders have traditionally felt they needed to create a professional image and avoid sharing their thoughts or personal characteristics, this may actually be a barrier to connection. 

As a young professor, Dr. Johnston created a group of mentors with successful reputations at the university. While they had found success, their style leaned more towards the authoritarian, locking students out if they were late and leaving red-inked criticism on papers instead of nurturing them. 

“So I emulated that. And for my first couple of years in the MBA classroom, I was not successful. Why? Because I was wearing this mask of perfection thinking this is how I needed to behave, and I wasn't connecting with my students at all; it formed a wall,” Dr. Johnston says.

Instead, she found that “in order to truly be connected with your team and with others and connected with your organization and that strategic vision, you have to start with yourself.”

Understand the characteristics that make you who you are. Would you prefer personal connections over an authoritarian dynamic? Are your ideas out of the box but valuable to your organization? Are you changing who you are to fit the mold of your organization?

Ditch the mask of perfection and be yourself. When you take the time to do so, you can find a balance between leadership and connection and also put yourself in a position to contribute more to your organization. 

Understand the Impact You Have On Your Organization

As organizations continue to deal with rising resignations and retention concerns, culture has become an area of critical importance. While most of the work must be done by the organization, association leaders must also understand their impact on that culture. 

Johnston says, “you're a part of creating a positive culture. Your whisper is a shout for every single person in the company, especially for high-level leaders. How you say, what you say, and what energy you bring to the meeting” can significantly impact your organization's culture. 

Similarly, your values need to align with those of the organization. Not only for your fulfillment but so you can share and nurture that same connectivity with the staff you end up managing. 

How Do You Become a More Authentic Leader?

So, to become more authentic and enact the change you want to see in your association, there are a few steps Dr. Johnston recommends: 

  1. Own Your Story – Your location, upbringing and life experiences influence how you lead and interact with others. Think about a significant life event you’ve experienced and what you learned from it? Own that story and allow it to be a part of how you lead. 
  2. Give Up Perfection – Not every project, initiative or day will be perfect – and that’s fine. Aspire to perfection, but don't allow it to become a limiting standard for yourself or your team. 
  3. Understand Your Communication Style – The more you understand yourself, the better you can interact with others. Take the time to explore personality tests like DiSC or Myers-Briggs, and use those insights to create a leadership style that compliments how you communicate and process information. 
  4. Set Time for Meaningful Connections – Understand your influence within an organization. Take the time to make meaningful connections and understand the stories and experiences that impact those around you, particularly in a virtual setting where one-on-one conversations require effort and planning.  

Of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg for what it means to be a leader in a new era of connection. Want to see this session and all the replays from SURGE Explore? Be sure to find out about our Sidecar membership to gain access to this and an entire library of valuable content.

Jose Triana
Post by Jose Triana
June 23, 2022
Jose Triana is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.