Have you ever been to a meeting the boss has called and asked the entire team to come up with solutions to solve a problem, make something function better, or make an important decision; then, only to find out at the end of the meeting the boss has already pre-determined the solution the team will implement? Unfortunately, this is common behavior observed in the workplace. What are the possible reasons behind this behavior and what are 3 behaviors leaders can incorporate to authentically lead teams?
Why would leaders behave in a way that initially conveys trust, openness, and teamwork and then damage their credibility and team morale by not being straightforward with the team? Perhaps there could be ulterior motives in some instances; however, in most cases it is probably a case of having a lack of confidence in oneself and the team in general, especially if the pre-determined outcome could be interpreted as controversial.
Another reason this may occur is that in some organizations teamwork is a buzzword and pushed as the best way to accomplish goals and in making decisions although regrettably, many leaders do not fully understand or demonstrate the proper skills of effective teamwork and collaboration. Therefore, leaders that lack this proficiency can more easily fall into the buzzword trap of using the pretext of teamwork to subsequently call meeting outcomes (similar to the above scenario) as having gained buy-in from the “troops.” This is obviously not the appropriate behavior for leaders to achieve buy-in from their team. Authentically leading teams helps create team buy-in because the team trusts the leader.
The following 3 behaviors to authentically lead teams should be at the top of every leader’s agenda as they serve to boost team morale, buy-in, and team effectiveness:
- Be honest and transparent – The cliché, honesty is the best policy, is correct. There are few things that damage a leader’s credibility more than dishonest or underhanded practices or communications. Be a truthful and honest leader and stay away from secretive behaviors. Transparency goes alongside honesty as it tends to get team members on board with a leader’s agenda when they hear and see the real leader and the real agenda, despite imperfections or vulnerabilities. Transparency isn’t always appropriate in sensitive situations; however, in most circumstances it is an important asset to the leader. Transparent leaders do not have hidden agendas.
- Increase skills in teamwork and collaboration – Effective skills and behaviors in these important leadership competencies are vital to leading teams and modeling how teamwork and collaboration ideally function. There are many good books on the subject, but we recommend these two by Parker and Lencioni to improve in this important competency. By taking the time to study and apply effective teamwork behaviors leaders can become more successful in their teamwork efforts and achieve greater team buy-in.
- Be self-aware – Evaluate your authenticity and change your attitude and behaviors where needed. Honestly (there’s that word again!) evaluate your actions and behaviors and identify any that can be perceived by your team as inauthentic. If you are not sure, ask someone objective outside of your team to give you feedback if a certain action will appear inauthentic. Yes, you need to become vulnerable to do this. Do you have the courage?
You may also need to change your attitude toward your team if you are having difficulty being authentic with them. Ask yourself these questions to uncover inauthentic behaviors related to leading teams:
a. Do I view my team as equals or am I better because I am The Leader?
b. Do I respect my team’s insights?
c. Is my position as leader more important than those under me?
d. Do I need to have a certain persona to be respected?
e. Am I open to and solicit views that challenge my deeply held positions?
f. Do I say exactly what I mean?
g. Additional questions that may be helpful in assessing your authenticity.
As a leader it is your responsibility to model authentic behaviors to others, especially other leaders – you lead the organizational tone. Organizations that have a culture of secrecy and pretense stifle creativity, motivation, and results. Take the time and effort to improve your authenticity; you will see positive results with your team!
For more information on teamwork competency improvement, see The Leadership Compass: Mapping Your Leadership Direction to assess your skills and behaviors and to get further recommendations.