It’s hard to be real, to be ourselves, particularly when we are leading a team inside of a highly defined organizational culture. Real means being vulnerable, sometimes showing weakness and admitting to being imperfect. But imperfect is what every single one of us is, and being able to reveal those imperfections is one of the ways that good leaders become great leaders.
So let’s get real about being real. Being real doesn’t mean not being willing to adapt or adjust our behavior as a way of growing and maturing in our leadership role. Some of us are so committed to being ourselves that we aren’t able to adapt our behavior so it’s most effective with others. We shut down conversations or alienate others when we are too much of ourselves. Sometimes we can derail our success because we overuse our strengths. Notice behaviors that shut down conversation and effective working relationships – micromanagement, constantly interrupting others, more driving and less listening, to name a few.
In the workplace, we’re most often working with and reliant on others for our success. The best leaders coordinate their actions with others and engage them, while being open and vulnerable to admitting “I don’t have all of the answers.” Being real is being willing to allow others to bring their gifts to the work to create better outcomes for the organization.
So, do we have to give up ourselves in order to be “real?” Often we see ourselves differently than others experience us. For example, you can be honest without being insulting, supervisory without micromanaging, and enthusiastic without interrupting. The first step to being your best real self is to ask for feedback – be an investigative reporter, request points of view from others and assess what you might do to dial yourself up or down to be a better leader. You might have some strengths that you overuse, or areas for development that you need to learn to continue to grow you into the best ‘you’ you can be.
Leaders who are able to be comfortably vulnerable with their direct reports will see employees step toward them in the spirit of cooperation and assistance – attitudes that amplify production and goal achievement. Allowing others to be real and imperfect, open and constantly learning will make for a happier, healthier and more productive team.