Much has been written about the positive impact of culture and employee engagement on customer satisfaction: a combination known to fuel business performance. But who creates a rich cultural environment, and what positively impacts employee engagement? Authentic Leaders do. Authentic Leadership is a type of leadership that inspires trust and builds loyalty. According to the Great Place to Work Institute, trust is the primary driver of financial performance.
The Great Place to Work Institutehas proven that “trust between managers and employees” is the primary driver of the very best workplaces. These companies experienced three times the average annualized financial returns of the S&P 500. Financial returns of 3X!
Employees in every sector and across all generations selectively engage with their company based on how much they trust the company itself, the decisions executives make, and how much they trust their immediate team and manager. In my research at Share On Purpose, Inc.,I’ve found that authentic leaders demonstrate a level of personal character that inspires performance rather than demands it.
Authentic leaders ignite the qualities of perseverance and preparation in the teams they manage. They also frequently tap into employees’ passions as their primary methodology for problem solving. As a lifelong student on the subject of excellence, I found there to be an indescribable tenor to the type of leaders who could both inspire performance while simultaneously drive results. From the sports arena, to the start-up, to the well-known brand, what was it about a great leader that translated into team success?
As a serial entrepreneur, it became readily apparent that my company’s performance mirrored my evolution as a leader. Said another way, as I evolved my personal leadership skills, the business performed accordingly, which fueled my desire to deconstruct leadership to its purest form.
In this quest to understand the special “leadership sauce” known to fuel great organizations, I was frequently misled by the “manager versus leader” debates and waylaid by the stories of iconic leaders who were not just rare but indescribable. If it’s that hard and that uncommon, how can a self-taught entrepreneur truly become a great leader?
The pursuit to understand great leadership challenged me to redefine the image of a leader as being the person at the top. My breakthroughs in defining authentic leadership came when I approached the problem from trying to deconstruct business performance rather than leadership itself. It was when I researched business performance, rather than leadership, that I stumbled on the first breakthrough.
Companies who outperform their peers do so because they are able to cobble together divisions and departments, at all levels, who excel. It’s not something that occurs in the boardroom or from the C-Suite. Once my leadership research shifted from the executive ranks to across the organization, the picture became clear.
Authentic Leadership is a particular brand of leadership that is profoundly impactful and surprisingly can be found at ALL levels of the organization, rather than only at the top. In addition, authentic leaders attract and naturally inspire others to model these altruistic characteristics, which is how, over time, they evolve their organization into a great place to work and, soon after, into a business performance powerhouse.
This column will seek to dispel common myths about leadership while simultaneously redefining a singular brand of leadership that is not only admirable but attainable. We will peel away the illusions, misconceptions, and fluff and boil it down to three principles.