Authentic Leadership and the four variables (self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing and relational transparency) were introduced in Part 1.
This posting will highlight an interview conducted by Danielle Sebranek who was an Employer Relations Graduate Assistant (GA) at the Florida State University (FSU) Career Center during my time there.
Danielle wanted a better understanding of Authentic Leadership and we agreed to partner on this interview project in the Spring 2018 semester, so she could ask questions to get a better Authentic Leadership understanding and how to integrate this leadership style into daily interactions with direct reports.
Danielle provided her approval to post her questions and overall summary below. My direct responses follow her questions:
- What first introduced you to the concept of authentic leadership? Is this something you sought out or did you naturally possess many of the qualities of a good authentic leader?
- I stumbled across authentic leadership. I wanted to complete my dissertation on the ‘1st Year Experience’ course but my advisor identified there was not enough Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology involved with this subject. My dissertation mentor introduced me to Authentic Leadership. I liked the idea because I could relate to this leadership style. After doing additional research, Authentic Leadership was selected as my preferred leadership style.
- What are some ways you seek to create a positive work environment for your team?
- I use daily interactions, adjusted for each person. Some team members I high five, some get a fist bump or elbow, etc. Others, I just say good morning. Establishing this daily routine and having personal conversations helps them know you are there for them. I also take their input into consideration. It is not my style to only talk to my team when I need something from them.
- Who/What inspired these practices? In your work history, have you had a positive work environment stand out to you?
- Honestly, I look back on two of my worst supervisors. I made a vow to not do things I didn’t like about their supervisory style. My years at Macon State College standout because my supervisor (now mentor) gave our team the freedom to find our niche and conduct outreach to students as we saw fit. I played volleyball with students on-campus as part of my outreach program. The students saw me as a person and approachable. Overall, my supervisor was willing to see things differently. Colin Powell’s leadership approach also influences me daily.
- What experiences have shaped your self-awareness?
- Becoming a leader in the Air Force was the start of being self-aware because I couldn’t assume everyone learns the same and knows what I mean without explanation. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Management Leadership Institute (MLI) feedback program was also important because I heard what past colleagues had to say about my work and I learned how others viewed me. I learned you always need to check yourself and you need to be self-aware every day. I approach my team on purpose; they don’t need to come to my office to approach me.
- Is there someone in your past work experiences who showed relational transparency?
- My mentor at Macon State College showed relational transparency. She took the time to explain processes. My last Air Force supervisor was also good at pushing the team out to do things to understand the big picture.
- How do you demonstrate relational transparency with your team?
- I never sit on a high horse and say I’m the boss. I always listen to my team. If something can’t be done, I make sure to explain the limitations.
- What past experiences have helped you develop a strong internalized moral perspective?
- I’ll share a conversation that has stuck with me and feels like it just happened yesterday. When I was a young Air Force instructor, a more veteran administrator observed my work and pulled me to the side for a quick chat. He praised my work and asked me out of the blue if I wanted to know how to be successful in life. He gifted me with this knowledge, “Be where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, when you’re supposed to do it”. Never compromise yourself and not be able to look yourself in the mirror.
- Using balanced processing and welcoming feedback from your team is something you practice on a regular basis. Is this something you received training on or did you learn from experience?
- I learned from experience and through reading Colin Powell’s book on leadership principles. If you don’t get up and walk around, it gives the perception you don’t care. That’s why I go to my people. I realized this concept (walking around) was tied to authentic leadership after conducting additional research.
- How has your leadership style changed from each industry you’ve worked in? Have some environments been easier or more difficult to lead with authenticity?
- Yes, I have grown as a leader. In the Air Force, leadership was based on rank. People can complain but ultimately you can order people to do things. Leadership is adaptable, and I have grown to be adaptable by learning how different people on my team work. I talk with Gen X team members differently than Millennials. I’m comfortable enough to understand conversations with team members will all be different. I know when certain team members ask ‘why’, they aren’t questioning authority but looking to understand. Overall, authentic leadership works with and helps balance a team with multiple generations present.
My conversation with Dr. Williams provided valuable insight into how to both grow as a leader and adopt authentic leadership in the workplace. Leaders are not born overnight; it takes conscious reflection and communication with others to develop the necessary self-awareness. Practicing authentic leadership foremost entails establishing approachability with your direct reports. Daily interactions, visiting your team in their space, taking the time to learn about their individual personalities and backgrounds, and valuing their voices and opinions all help to show you care. Adaptability is also an essential component of authentic leadership. Recognizing team members think and behave differently allows you to cater your interactions in a way that is relatable to them. Lastly, Dr. Williams stressed the importance of mentorship and learning from example. Find someone you look up to in your workplace and sit down with them to hear their story and how they implement leadership in their role.
- You can follow Danielle here to see how the tree continues to grow: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniellesebranek/