Today more than ever, being authentic is a skill every CEO needs to master. Leaders who score highly in this skill are often described as genuine, whereas leaders low in this skill are often seen as untrustworthy.

A recent study by the Institute for Leadership and Management in conjunction with Management Today surveyed CEOs, line managers and employees to analyse the relationship with leadership and trust. The report concluded that to develop trust, senior leaders must first demonstrate their ability as leaders and secondly display high levels of integrity.

Simon Sinek in ‘Start with Why’ writes that “Leading is not the same as being the leader… Leading means that others willingly follow you – not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.” He relates the story of Gordon Bethune, CEO of Continental Airlines, who was successful in a company turnaround, becoming ranked as one of the best companies to work for in America. “Those who lead can do so because those who follow trust that the decisions made at the top have the best interest of the group at heart… those who trust work hard because they feel like they are working for something bigger than themselves.”

Malta is known for a good work ethic however this cannot be abused of. An employee’s loyalty must not be misunderstood for trust. If employees lack the trust of their leaders this will relate to unengaged or actively disengaged employees. There is a direct link between the way employees feel and the way they perform at work.

Trust is gained by being authentic and genuine.

Authenticity is about openly and effectively expressing yourself, honouring commitments and encouraging this behaviour in others. It involves appropriately expressing specific feelings at work, such as happiness and frustration, providing feedback to colleagues about the way you feel, and expressing emotions at the right time, to the right degree and to the right people.

Authenticity is important in leadership because it helps leaders create understanding, openness and feelings of trust in others. On the other hand, leaders who are guarded, avoid conflict or are inappropriately blunt about the way they feel create mistrust, artificial harmony and misunderstandings with those around them. Leaders need their people to be open with them. If, as a leader, you do not role-model this behaviour, your direct reports will keep back from sharing ideas and information.

Authentic leaders use storytelling to provide evidence of their positive qualities and develop trust. As a CEO, it can be beneficial to develop a personal portfolio of stories that incorporate:

  • Who you are and what you stand for.
  • A time in your life when your qualities were put to the test.
  • A person or event in your life that taught you the importance of a specific quality.
  • A time when you failed against your standards and decided to never let it happen again.

“Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organisations to work”– Warren G. Bennis, American scholar, organisational consultant and author

Karl Grech is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Helping his clients enhance how they connect, communicate and collaborate at work, he can be reached on coaching@karlgrech.com or visit www.karlgrech.com  to learn more.

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