Leading with Authentic Concern

Business people shaking handsBy Brian Wolff

Leading in good times is challenging enough, and with all that has happened this year, the degree of difficulty has escalated by a factor of at least two. Today’s leader must be able to connect with their people on a different level to be effective.

As a leader, my teammates want to know I am leveling with them all the time. It doesn’t really matter if this is their first job or if they’ve been on the job for 20 years–people respond better when you speak the truth, even if that truth is bad news.

We call that being authentic or operating with authentic concern, which simply means demonstrating that you value the other person enough to provide positive and negative feedback with empathy, without patronizing them with false praise or treating them as a tool to get a job done.

There are many facets to authentic concern, but it starts with doing what you said you were going to do. A phrase I borrow from my old boss is “thought, word, deed.” In the end, leaders must do all they can to create an environment where people feel safe to express their true feelings, knowing the recipient will listen and consider another perspective. We don’t always have to agree, but we do owe our colleagues a commitment to being open to ideas and their point of view.

Of course, authentic concern can’t just be a cute phrase on the wall; it must deliver business value. In fact, my experience is that when leaders operate with authentic concern, their people follow the lead and deliver authentic concern to their customers. Customers feel that authenticity and return the favor with their dollars and loyalty, creating a virtuous cycle of fulfilled employees and repeat customers.

Brian Wolff is president and CEO of Parker Technology. He will present on this topic during IPMI’s 2020 Leadership Summit, online, Oct. 6-8. For details and to register, click here.