Wanted: Authentic Leaders, Like You

Lead from a place of humanity.

We are in uncharted territory. We’re like early American pioneers who ventured West to forge a new frontier and had no clue what they would find on their journey.

I’ve lived and worked through my share of recessions, and came out okay every time. My parents grew up during the Depression—as did those of other Boomers.

Yet none of us ever has been through anything like this before. It’s as if the entire country has hung out a sign that says, “On Vacation Until Further Notice.”

Is it scary? Of course it is! If you’re a Millennial, and that’s your feeling, it’s normal.

Are you alone in that feeling? Of course you’re not! Nobody has a road map for this adventure. We’re all traveling blind — but we’re traveling together.

Should you leave it up to others to tell you how to navigate the future? Of course you should … not!

If you’ve been struggling with self-motivation, what are you doing about it? You need to lead yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to pull you along.

AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP

There’s only one kind of leadership worth practicing: authentic leadership. It’s not doing your job on auto pilot. It’s digging deep to elevate your performance—and the performance of everyone else who depends on you.

The slogan for these times has become “We’re all in this together.”

That’s only half of it, though. The other half, regardless of generation, is, “We all need to come out of this together, stronger, and more united than before.”

OK, Boomer? OK, Millennial?

For starters, if you’re feeling sorry for yourself, stop right now. No woe-is-me attitude is going to help anybody.

This feels like “down time” for those whose job isn’t easily replicated at home. Another “down“ to grapple with—as young Millennials have confided to me—is morale.

There are ways to combat that, though.

Use your ingenuity to sustain your work ethic and your morale. There’s always something to do that can advance your—and your employer’s—success. Research the competition, take a free online course, work on strategy, re-order and update your personal goals, start a daily journal, or read a motivational business book.

STAY IN SHAPE

Whatever your choice, keep your mind focused, fertile, and agile. This is your off-season, and if you want to stay in the starting lineup when the new season starts, stay in shape and stay a step ahead of those angling to replace you or get that coveted promotion instead of you.

There’s reward in keeping your skills sharp and up-to-date during this forced mass sabbatical. Conversely, there’s risk in letting your skills deteriorate while removed from the discipline and structure of the formal workplace.

It takes even more discipline while quarantined to not let yourself be easily distracted during work hours and to not procrastinate.

Resist the urge to overdose on social media. Aspects of social media and the people who lurk there, spreading toxic misinformation, can be sources of aggravation and you want to find ways to stay calm. Nobody meditates to social media, that’s for sure. Take stock of your life. Be introspective. Plan ahead.

Working at home doesn’t excuse lounging around sloppily. Act as if you’re off to work as usual. Get dressed, and set up boundaries at home between your work and your unwind time.

PERSONAL OUTREACH

Reach out to colleagues to connect, not only to talk work, but to cheer up each other. Don’t rely only on texting. It’s too impersonal. Make a voice call or put together a Zoom session of your own to talk business and to re-charge, as well. Like they say, there’s strength in numbers, and, in times like this, we all need to stay strong.

Speaking of outreach, how often has your supervisor reached out to you during the crisis? I don’t mean with a formal, formulaic e-blast to 20 employees, but with an informal, personalized email or a voice or video call to each individual. Even five minutes is enough to make a difference in morale and to spur productivity.

Even if you’re not hearing from those you report to, you should be taking the initiative to reach out to them with ideas on how to rebuild business and find new opportunities. That’s a form of leadership as well.

It really is all about authentic leadership. Authentic leaders measure their success by the success of those they lead. Authentic leaders want you to get ahead.

It’s during a crisis when authentic leadership scores big points, and robotic leadership fumbles the ball.

Robotic leadership talks in corporate-speak and pretends to listen.

Authentic leadership wants to know your pain points, so it knows which tools you need to succeed.

If management isn’t authentic in its encouragement of workers who are feeling out of touch and isolated, there’s a good chance the lack of authenticity will be felt by customers as well. That indifference will cost a company market share after the crisis.

BE YOUR OWN LEADER

Remember: People in leadership roles don’t always have the right answers. They are not immune to distraction and procrastination themselves. That’s when you must take the lead to not be undermined by others’ shortcomings.

If a supervisor is keeping tabs on you, and asking questions, don’t resent or resist those efforts. Embrace them. You don’t want to be on the short end of the inevitable layoffs and furloughs that will be with us even as the economy gets back on its feet.

Actually, you should be thanking anyone with a stake in your success who makes it a point to stay in touch right now. It means they value your contributions. You may be out of sight, but you’re not out of mind, and that’s a good thing.

Show your value to the company from the confines of your home just as you would be doing from your desk at work.

Keep in mind that both the economy and our culture will be forever changed by COVID-19. I’ve already heard the term coronaconomy used to signify a changed economy.

We won’t be returning to normal as much as getting acquainted with a new normal, whatever that may be. That applies to an inevitable change in consumer habits. Theirs will be a different mindset coming out of this. They are being more conditioned than before to shop online.

I’ve always been a big believer in bricks-and-mortar, and I haven’t changed that opinion. It’s not going away, but I also have no doubt that e-commerce will continue to grow rapidly. Are you homing in on the omni-channel customer experience?

A company perceived as out-of-touch with the “new normal” will invite the kind of negative sentiment that quickly becomes, well, contagious.

Originally posted on Forbes.

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