Well, here’s the big question that leads to the big deal … Do they follow you because they have to or because they want to? If it’s the former, you only have their time and their loyalty because you pay their salary and keep them in the job they are in today. If it’s the latter however, they’ll walk over hot coals for you … today, tomorrow or in five years time. There will come a day when you ask your team or someone in your team, to take a leap of faith for you or to do something extraordinary. They will only do that if they want to and they will only want to if they know you and trust you – and trusting doesn’t happen by accident.


Picture this … at some time in the future you somehow manage to find yourself in a role that’s even bigger and scarier than the one you are in today. You are sitting in your very big shiny new office, with your very big new shiny performance targets and you know you are going to need some very good people around you if you aren’t going to make a complete idiot of yourself. You know just the three people you need as your right hand men and women – but small problem; they all have very good jobs somewhere else. Will working for you again be something they will even consider? Will they want to follow you? Worth the investment? We think so. You never know when you will need to make a call to ask someone to help you, whether that be in your current role, the next one or the one after that. If you are the real deal, when your number lights up on someone’s mobile screen, they will take your call. If you aren’t, you might find yourself leaving a lot of increasingly desperate voicemails, which never get returned! Seems like a good idea then … tomorrow morning when you wake up you are going to leap out of bed, be authentic and inspire loyalty and trust. Decision made, job done! Well, you’ll need to do a little bit more than that because how authentic you are depends on how much you are prepared to share … and we are not just talking about the sharing of the usual corporate gifts of good communication and open door policies. We are talking about the sharing of … You.


Are you for real?

Have you ever noticed that leaders seem to take on god like qualities, bestowed on them quite unfairly by the people who work for them? As bizarre as this seems, there are a lot of people looking upwards who truly think that leaders never have the problems that beset lesser mortals … they don’t miss trains, run out of milk, have bad hair days, cars that break down, annoying families, demanding friends, stressful times, sleepless nights … in short, they are the chosen ones for whom the sun always shines. If only! But there it is, others do really believe you have a charmed life, so if you want to be authentic you have to let people know you are not a divine being but a real live human one with all the same issues and challenges as everyone else. OK, so now you are worried right? You don’t want to share ‘You’, ‘You’ are a private person and ‘You’ really are not that interesting. You want to keep ‘You’ just for you. This can only end one way – in humiliation. Read on, you are so much more interesting than you think and sharing ‘You’ does not have to be the eye-wateringly painful or teeth-grittingly embarrassing experience that you probably think it is. Here are a few suggestions as to how you can do it with natural ease and simplicity…


Tell your stories …

A weekly newsletter of your life is probably taking things too far but you can and should take every opportunity to weave in some personal anecdotes into the conversations you have, the communications you write and the conference speeches you make. At your next team meeting make your point stick with the people around the table by including a story – the fact is (and there is no easy way to break this to you) they really will not remember your fancy slides, but they will remember your stories. We all are customers and consumers; we all have horror/happy stories about poor/great service, terrible/terrific purchases and magnificent/miserable sales people. Not only will these stories illustrate your points in a more memorable way, they reveal a little bit of you.


Let people know what matters to you and why …

What’s important to you as an individual – not to the organisation you work for, but to you? What do you do when you are not in the office? If you never miss your son’s football match on a Sunday or you always take your daughter to her dancing lesson, if you hit the gym once a week, are a volunteer at a charity/social club, write poetry, paint landscapes … whatever it may be, those things are important to you and part of who you are and how you live your life – so talk about them. If you want to leave the office early on a Tuesday each week to take your daughter to her dancing lesson tell people, don’t skulk out the door with a guilty look on your face because shock horror you are leaving before 5pm, be upfront and tell people where you are going and why it’s important to you.


Don’t be perfect … Show your vulnerabilities.

Very few people are blessed with the perfect life. Things go wrong, from time to time you screw up, every now and again admit it, you are as scared as the next man/woman! Be prepared to share some of the times you felt overwhelmed, under confident or simply not on top of your game as much as you share the glory moments. Perhaps, when you took this job you were a tiny little bit apprehensive – why not share that with your team and let them know how much you appreciate their support? 4 Where does your inspiration come from …? A special piece of music? A person? An event in your life? A place? Whatever it is it will be personal and unique to you. It will also reveal a lot about you. Don’t keep it to yourself. You don’t have to tell everyone you meet, but a reminder of it on your desk or on the wall of your office can start a conversation. A conversation that others will feel privileged to have shared with you.


Admit you have help …

It may be you have had help from a mentor to speed your way up the career ladder, it may be financial help to study for exams, it may be no more than day-to-day help at home to ensure life runs smoothly. The point is at some stage we all have help – from colleagues, friends, family, partners, nannies, mentors, coaches and the rest, so be honest, you really are not superman/woman! Don’t try and create the illusion you are.


You can be too polished ….

Of course you have to be professional, but you also have a heart. If that means when the occasion demands it, that emotion takes the shine off some of the polish, that’s okay. When you need to get over a point about something you believe in passionately, beware of being too slick or overly rehearsed. You don’t need to go around emoting at every opportunity, but it really is fine to let some emotion out. When times are tough and you need to inspire your team to go an extra mile when they can hardly see how they are going to go an extra step, a boring PowerPoint slide full of red numbers along with a very well rehearsed and polite ‘we really must all pull our socks up’ speech isn’t going to cut it is it? Be passionate about what needs to be done, and why and how much you care.


Confess that sometimes you don’t have the answers …

and ask the people who work for you who probably do! Everyone loves being asked for advice and letting your team know that sometimes you really need it is a good thing. There is no better question you can ask a member of your team than ‘what would you do?’, and then make sure you listen to the answer and consider it even if you choose not to act on it. They will feel 10 feet tall and you might just have a different angle on something.

Aspire to be normal …!

In summary, you have to be you. In all your imperfect but inspiring glory. Clearly there are some boundaries; you don’t have to and you wont want to share absolutely everything, but the more you can reveal something of the real you, the more naturally authentic you will be. The more authentic you are, the more you will inspire personal trust, genuine admiration and long time loyalty. One of the greatest complements truly authentic leaders get is someone saying ‘but you are so normal’! Why would you want to be anything but?

Sue Saville

Advisory Board

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