Being the 'Authentic' Leader

MSME ARTICLE #1/2018 : JANUARY 24th 2018

Can this statement be true? Being an exemplary leader in an organisation can prove to be undesirable from certain perspectives. Some of the leaders that I have coached have shared this phenomenon. These are the leaders who feel that because they excel in many tasks, they have been targeted by their superiors to take on more and more assignments. How do these leaders feel about this? During my coaching engagements, these leaders have shared that they feel overwhelmed with the numerous tasks being put on their plate. In addition, they also feel that they have no alternative and felt stuck in their dilemna.

I will show-case one of my coaching cases in which the above dilemna was experienced by
the client-leader.

Client-Case:
One of the leaders that I coached shared that the above dilemna was a common pattern of behaviour in her organisation and she was overcome with a feeling of helplessness. During the coaching session, we explored her beliefs and values around working in organisations. She shared that her key objective was to learn as quickly as possible all the main issues around tasks so that she can execute them with clarity and accuracy. This will help meet the expectations of her bosses. In return, the bosses will feel proud of her achievement and she secures their praise, recognition and approval. She also has a value of work-life balance. Because being with her family is important to her, she endeavours to complete her tasks as swiftly as possible and hence her time with her family is respectfully maintained.

Over the years of endorsing her work philosophy, she has come to realization that her superiors have earned her trust in completing tasks swiftly and matching their expectations. Because of this outcome, they have now made her a trusted ally of theirs. As and when key tasks appear on the horizon, they will automatically gravitate towards her and she gets landed with more and more work. She knows she can do these tasks as she has strengthened her muscle around these tasks and she would be able to execute them swiftly and to perfection with minimal effort when she focuses her time and energy on them.

However, during the coaching session, she surfaced her fatigue around doing so much more than what she had contracted for. She was feeling helpless, as she did not want to ‘let them down’. She was also feeling overwhelmed as well as demotivated that she was unable to reject the numerous requests of her superiors. She felt she was sabotaging herself as she was compromising her work-life balance value. All of these negative feelings were draining her energy and she was contemplating on whether to stay or to leave the organization, even though she knew she was a ‘star’ employee.

During the coaching session, we focused on how she would feel if she could be her “Authentic” self during her working hours while cherishing her key values around work and family. She felt empowered and animated as she spoke about her ‘ideal’ scene at work. She would like to have a balance of challenging ‘new’ tasks as well as plan her time to be with her family. We next explored how she could bring this to reality while keeping her focus on upholding her values and beliefs.

She came up with powerful action plans. Some of the steps she was willing to do included;
She wants to be the “authentic” leader. She was willing to influence her superiors about her non-negotiable value around upholding and maintaining a work-life balance.
With respect to the overwhelming load, she was willing to convince her superiors
that she would delegate some of the tasks that were not ‘new’ challenges, to her subordinates and she would keep an eye on them or supervise them so that the outcome is as per their expectation.
She wants to highlight to her superiors the need for developing talent within the organization so that there would be available talent for succession planning purposes.
One of her insights gained from the coaching sessions was her need for approval from her superiors. She was willing to ‘let-go’ of that need, as being an “Authentic” leader and living her values became more apparent as being more important to her.

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