The world is changing at breakneck pace. So fast that it is increasingly difficult to find anyone who doesn’t feel lost in some facet of their life. Surrounded by permanent crises, constant stimuli, new concepts, and unstoppable technological advances, uncertainty has taken hold of our lives, as if it were installed as our default setting.
In addition, professionals who have entered into the labor market during the last 15 years have barely experienced what was taken for granted in days gone by. The absence of normality has anchored these new generations in uniqueness and, in many cases, has almost completely dismantled their perspectives of the future. In the past, we used to manage change. Nowadays, we manage things that no-one expected to change.
We live in times that are turbulent, but above all, uncertain. And organizations who have true leaders at their head manage to increase the commitment of their workers, raise their level of productivity and wellbeing, reduce work-related stress, attract more diverse talent, and construct a more robust corporate culture, with a purpose that unites and recognizes everyone in the group.
Faced with so much disorientation, recapturing the essence of real leadership – authentic, human, and sincere – is key for businesses and society in defining that pace that they want to work towards, and getting back to a more stable lifestyle.
What is authentic leadership?
Authenticity is much more than just a fashionable word. In leadership, it corresponds to reliability: being a real leader means being a credible, honest leader who is capable of generating trust. A guide who it is worth following, and who it is worth believing in.
And in the current context, very few people are willing to believe in leaders who seem to know everything, who don’t speak clearly, or who don’t show themselves as they really are. So, if you want to become an authentic leader, perhaps it is worth looking at what it means to truly lead again:
Leading is being human. And showing yourself as such. It is celebrating the triumphs, and also recognizing the challenges that you find most difficult to deal with.
Leading is knowing oneself. It is being very aware of your strengths, limitations and values.
Leading is helping. It is working with other people to achieve common goals, so that you all improve during the process.
Leading is listening. It is analyzing problems from different perspectives and giving weight to all opinions before making a decision.
Leading is being humble. It is being open to learning from the mistakes you make, and from those who know more than you.
Leading is being responsible. It is being conscious of the fact that those decisions that seem the smallest also have a great impact.
Leading is going to the source. It is having a very clear understanding of why you do what you do, and communicating that. It is inspiring, in the sense of having a purpose.
Leading is acting ethically. It is being guided by justice, and paying attention to that voice that tells you that you’re doing the right thing.
True leadership requires real communication
The pompous speeches of great leaders are increasingly falling by the wayside, in favor of closer, more horizontal conversations, and a way of motivating that is based on sincere dialog, involvement and negotiation.
Sharing time, knowledge, experience, points of view, and lessons learned contributes to generating more trust in organizations, and promotes growth and participation in teams.
Try to base the next conversation you have in your company on the following key points:
No-one likes to have the truth hidden from them, even though it can be painful. If you want your team to row alongside you, sincerely explain the facts that lead your company to take specific decisions.
Steer clear of using euphemisms and buzzwords. Treat people with respect, but be clear. People need to know where they stand with a leader. And if they think you’re playing games or you have a hidden agenda, they’ll stop believing in you.
Allow conversations to be open, and allow each member of the team to participate without fear of hierarchies or reprisals.
Listen to people with your eyes. It is essential for each employee to feel that you are concerned about them on a human level. Although you may have to give negative feedback to employees, do so clearly and honestly, but with tact and consideration, and as an equal.
Sometimes, the best way to influence others is to recognize your own limits and share the lessons you have learned in the most difficult times.
Be genuinely pleased for people you work with when they achieve things, and admire those who have more talent and experience that you in different areas. Make the most of this as a new opportunity to learn and get closer to them.
In times like these, when we are craving a little normality, real leadership emerges as the first step towards a corporate culture that is capable of providing meaning, uniting, and guiding an entire organization in the achievement of a common goal.
What does it mean to be a human leader in the era of ChatGPT?
In the midst of a boom in AI applications, which we have all started to use in our day-to-day lives, the most enthusiastic voices are conflicting with those who fear a dehumanized future.
At IESE, we opt for an AI approach that is very clear about why we want to use it and how we are going to use it. In the words of professor Mireia Giné, “in spite of the virtues of AI, we must be aware of its challenges, and always maintain human participation”.
For this reason, it is worth remembering some of the human qualities that will continue to be irreplaceable in a world of algorithms: