I can sometimes be a phony. I have good intentions, of course. I want to project a positive professional image and build others’ confidence in my ability to lead our organization. I don’t want to trouble others with the challenges I face on a daily basis. But by suppressing my vulnerability, I am reducing my ability to form genuine relationships with others and inhibiting their ability to just be themselves around me.
On the other hand, I can sometimes be in your face with the hard facts of life. I love pushing people through reality checks based on my interpretation of what is and what ought to be. This approach can alienate others, make them feel trapped in a hierarchical relationship, and reduce others’ trust in my ability to protect them and our organization.
Both approaches are a little extreme. Somewhere in the middle is an approach where we can be our genuine selves, open to freely giving and receiving dreams, opportunities, and love.
Rather than changing who we are to fit the mold of our organizations or to be closer to what we think others think we should be, we can safely express our needs, ideas, and concerns with those people with whom we have developed a sincere relationship. Our goal should be to develop such a relationship with as many people as possible, particularly in our leadership practice. Others will likewise feel more comfortable disclosing challenges and desires to you. Critical information should be shared both ways rather than hoarded or protected. The relationship is reciprocal, engaging, and trusting.
We should also create ample opportunities for staff and community members to interact with us – both in person and virtually. Be highly approachable by creating a system for intermittent communication and remain continually in touch with others on an ordinary basis through physical space, email, or social media.
It is helpful to be cognizant of how others perceive you to ensure you are truly representing the ‘what you see is what you get,’ responsive, and accessible leader you aspire to be. A periodic 360 degree formal evaluation can reveal areas for improvement. If there is dissonance between what you think and what others report, don’t be preoccupied with the results; simply use this information to education and improve yourself to the best of your ability.
When we are seen as transparent, we improve our relationships and our ability to work and play together. Admit your mistakes, share your hopes and dreams, and unveil your insecurities with those who trust and value your leadership. Offer them the opportunity to do the same, and respond with love and care.