Driving Business Success Through Authentic Leadership
By Fara Haron, Majorel
It’s not difficult find reports and statistics dedicated to the current U.S. labor shortage. The events of the past few years have culminated in employers across all industries finding themselves in search of available workers. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports nearly four million Americans left their jobs in early 2021, increasing resignation rates 24 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels. While contributing factors to this labor shortage are vast and complex, this statistic is important and should have the attention of executive leadership across all industries. Simply put, a thriving workforce lends itself to a successful business and leaders should not expect a “business as usual” approach will resonate with today’s employees.
As a regional Chief Executive Officer of a global CX provider, I have been able to witness first-hand how COVID-19 changed the game and the way leadership has been forced to adapt. It’s no longer enough to talk about initiatives, or company goals. Employees want to see real change and it starts at the top. Every level of management, from C-suite to day-to-day managers and supervisors should be asking themselves how authentic leadership can assist in employee retention and promote overall business success.
Lead with authenticity
Employees often seek alternative employment because their needs aren’t being met. Whether it be related to compensation, benefits, or the overall sense that their perspective isn’t appreciated. Today’s leaders should be prioritizing listening first and talking second. A successful team is one where all members can voice their opinions. One of the ways I approach employee discussions is by listening, focusing on identifying pain points, then stepping back and looking at the bigger picture to find a cohesive solution to the issues at hand.
Additionally, one of the greatest advantages given to executive leadership is the ability to seek insight from diverse teams. A mistake often made by leaders is to not focus on diversifying teams with individuals of all backgrounds and perspectives, or not seeking out different viewpoints. Failing to do so could directly impact business success, and make employees feel as if there isn’t space for their insights.
Don’t be afraid to show emotion
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic many workplaces were still struggling to address the stigma associated with showing emotion at work and making overall mental health a priority. However, after the turmoil of the past few years, many workplaces have been asked to acknowledge how events on a national and global scale impact emotional and mental health, as well as the productivity of their teams. Remote work, for example, has required a level of understanding and flexibility from leadership as it quite literally shows where people come from. What individuals are dealing with daily has been revealed. As such, I believe leaders can find that showing some emotion and humanity can inspire a team more than anything else. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t honor business etiquette and formality, but there’s a balance. Showing emotion is not and should not be viewed as negative.
Emphasize treating employees as individuals
Treating employees with respect seems obvious in theory but can be difficult for some teams to prioritize. One of the ways I approach this is to make myself available to my team and to encourage employee professional and career growth. For example, leaders can approach mentorship situations not with the mindset of “I’m imparting knowledge,” but with the goal of helping employees work through solutions on their own. Listen to people and give them a chance to express what they need, how they can attain a plausible solution and how it can be executed, versus just giving it to them.
In my role, I hope to foster a sense of community and teamwork, while focusing on building true relationships with individuals. Sharing individual opinions results in people understanding different perspectives and impacts. This oftentimes, this can inspire people to find compromises, work hard for each other and the team, with the common goal of overcoming tough problems together.
A little flexibility goes a long way
The importance of flexibility and adaptability has been so thoroughly discussed in the past few years that we’re almost tired of it. However, it’s one of the most important attributes today’s leaders can have. In the era of remote working, employees are looking to have employers meet them where they are. This requires leaders and teams to have mutual trust. Additionally, part of being more flexible in challenging times is to realize that things can be done without being 100 percent perfect all the time. This was something I had to learn early on in my leadership career. We often put so much pressure on ourselves, and then others, to produce a perfectly executed plan or project. The reality is nothing always goes exactly the way we want or plan it to. Bringing some of that mindset to the table as a leader gives employees the opportunity to show grace to others and themselves in stressful situations.
Due to the nature of remote work, one of the most unique aspects of the past few years has been the blurring of the lines between professional and personal lives. In some cases, boundaries are nearly nonexistent. Acknowledging this is the key to operating a successful business, as leaders shouldn’t try and force employees back into the old workforce norms. Instead, we should be focusing on authentic leadership practices, allowing space for more empathy from both leaders and employees, practicing active listening and more flexibility. Lofty goals, possibly. However, leading with authenticity could be the key to creating a more invested workforce and driving business success.