The Secret Guide to Authentic Leadership - Secret Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen


The Secret Guide to Authentic Leadership - Secret Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen



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Throughout my 39-year career at the local electric and natural gas utility; I was often called upon to address and resolve long-term process and people issues within various departments. These temporary "fix" positions, which typically lasted 12-13 months, presented numerous challenges, particularly as I was rarely an expert in the specific responsibilities of the affected areas. However, one critical lesson I learned during these assignments was the importance of dedicating time to understanding and caring for those under my leadership.


Secret #1: Finding Your Inner Voice
Secret #2: Your Legacy
Secret #3: Stand Up and Speak Out
Secret #4: Leadership and Management
Secret #5: Don’t Imitate Others
Secret #6: Lead From Within
Secret #7: Servant Leader
Secret #8 – Being Genuine
Secret #9 – Express Your Leadership as a Person
Secret #10 – Admit When You’re Wrong
Secret #11 – Hold Yourself and Employees Accountable
Secret #11 – Truly Be Open To Feedback
Secret #13 – Take the Heat; Give the Credit

Secret #14 – Have Time for Those in Your Care

During my 39-year career at the local electric and natural gas utility, I was chosen for many temporary “fix” positions where either a long-term process issue or a people issue resided. I would be plucked from my full-time position and put in these positions for approximately 12-13 months, making sure the issue was resolved and the group could effectively move forward upon my exiting. Needless to say, these assignments were challenging in many aspects, one of which was that I was never an expert in the responsibilities of those areas of the company.

Because executive leadership gave me my marching orders in terms of what they felt needed to be resolved and my time with those colleagues was limited, I sometimes got a little too task-focused. Luckily, I have always had wiser colleagues who gave me input and feedback. Our HR specialist once provided me with some relationship advice based on his observations. In this particular assignment, my office was not located in the same area as the employees I was responsible for. It was close in proximity, but I wasn’t able to have regular conversations that would occur if we were in the same area.

David, our HR Specialist, asked me one day how much time I spent with the individual employees and inquired about the nature of those conversations. I realized that I often went to their area with specific questions regarding procedures, etc. I would naturally participate in a little small talk, but my purpose for being there was very specific. David pointed out that I probably was not spending quality time with any of those employees. I wasn’t building my relationship with them on a more personal level, getting to know who each of them was and what made them tick, both at work and away from work. What great advice he provided me. Because this specific group worked 24/7 with 12-hour shifts, shift change occurred at 6 a.m. every morning. Because of his sage advice, I scheduled visiting time from 5:30 a.m. through 6:30 a.m. each morning. That way I was able to talk with those getting off shift to see how things went and if they needed any assistance with anything, as well as learning about them on a more personal level, and greeting those coming on shift, having similar conversations. Taking this time with them quickly built trust between us, which would have taken much longer had I kept focusing on the tasks that needed to be completed.

We all need colleagues, friends, and family members who can provide us with the view we cannot see ourselves. I continued this process in each temporary job I was placed in. It provided me with even more procedural/process information and definitely brought me closer to them, closer to the group, and it brought team members closer to each other. I needed to be reminded that as their leader, I influenced their personal life, not just their professional life. Knowing more about their individual identity is an important part of authentic leadership.

Having time for those in your care allows you to know what is important to them and makes them feel valued, not just as an employee but, more importantly, as an individual.

Secret #15 – Know and Recognize All Levels

Recognizing all levels in the organization means acknowledging and appreciating the contributions and efforts of employees at every level of the hierarchy, from frontline staff to middle management to executives. It involves valuing the diverse skills, perspectives, and roles that individuals play in achieving the organization's goals.

Authentic leaders take time to get to know and recognize those who society and organizations tend to place nearer the bottom of hierarchal organization charts, such as janitors, groundskeepers, cafeteria workers, and salesclerks, to name a few. Making others feel important and valued continues to be the focus of my role as a leader. Being respectful is one way to accomplish that. I was taught to be respectful of everyone, no matter what their title or responsibilities, and I was taught always to say please and thank you. It delights me to hear small children say please and thank you. Though they are simple words, they can have powerful results.

Getting to know and appreciate all levels of employees in an organization speaks volumes about who you are as a person and as a leader.

 Secret #16 – Know When to Lead from in Front, Alongside, and Behind

It’s important to know when to lead from in front, alongside or behind. Leaders should be fully engaged in the midst of the action so they have a clear view of potential challenges ahead.

Leading from in front does not occur from a corner office. It means you roll up your sleeves and get actively engaged with employees so you can better understand the challenges and opportunities they face, which hopefully results in being better informed and making wiser decisions. It demonstrates there is not one rule for you and other leaders and one rule for other employees. It reinforces that as a leader, you are not asking team members to do things you wouldn’t want to do. It takes courage to step out in front. Staying cocooned away from the action can feel safer and less risky. However, progress is much harder to make when you play it safe. Leading from in front can inspire others to take action and follow your lead, it helps drive progress and provides direction on how to succeed.

Leading from alongside works effectively when people lead teamwork in teams without being higher up in the hierarchy or having the authority to give instructions. However, formal leaders need to know when leading from alongside is a more effective place to lead. When you’re leading alongside, you have a better opportunity to communicate ideas, hear feedback, and collaborate. It also allows those you are formally leading to take a more formal leadership role without the title. It demonstrates the leader’s willingness to look to the employees for input and insight and communicate that the entire team, leader included, is equally vested in mutual success. The leader’s role when leading alongside is more about guiding and supporting the team members, who usually do their best when they figure out the best way to accomplish a task.

Leading from behind also involves guiding, and it allows putting others in front, especially when celebrating good things that have occurred. It is not a passive stance but rather a dynamic strategy that can inspire your team to surpass expectations while nurturing a culture of innovation and progress. As the formal leader, your role focuses on empowering, engaging, and aligning your team’s vision with yours for collective success. Leading from behind fosters an environment where every team member can flourish and make their best contributions as long as the leader sets a vision and communicates clear goals. Leading from behind helps your team become more solution-focused in their thinking, helping them look for problems from a different perspective and change how they ask questions. It’s been likened to a shepherd tending to a flock, monitoring and guiding as necessary.

Effective leaders often alternate between leading from in front, alongside, and behind. Their position depends largely on their team dynamics, the task at hand, and the ultimate goal.


To Wrap Things Up!

Effective leadership is not just about task completion but also about building genuine relationships with those you lead. Understanding and appreciating each individual's contributions fosters trust and collaboration, ultimately leading to a more cohesive and motivated team. Leaders can create a supportive environment that encourages growth, innovation, and mutual respect by recognizing and valuing employees at all levels and knowing when to lead from the front, alongside, or behind.

Photo by Azzedine Rouichi on Unsplash