Inspiring Women, Episode 20: Becoming The Authentic Leader You Envision
There’s almost a crying desire for leadership in our society which is genuine. In this episode of “Inspiring Women,” host Betty Collins discusses the characteristics of authentic leadership. “Inspiring Women” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Betty’s Show Notes
It’s everywhere; books, coaches, seminars on the why, the what, the who, and the how.
It’s really, in my mind, almost overkill. But the sad truth is, with all of that help, we are desperately looking for leadership that is authentic.
In our society, in politics, to corporate America, to education systems, within our homes, within professional organizations, authentic leadership is really tough to find.
Authentic leadership works on the principle that leaders can prove their legitimacy, their credibility, by nurturing sincere relationships with whomever they’re leading. Notice I did not say “I am the leader, follow me!” It isn’t about the title. It really is nurturing sincere relationships.
How do you do that?
An authentic leader encourages their followers to be more open. They appreciate their support in the success of the organization. When you want to be an authentic leader, it’s pretty tough. It’s a pretty high standard, and it takes a while to do.
This is something you have to be pretty intentional about. If you are a true authentic leader, you’ll have certain characteristics. You probably can’t have all 10 that I’ve come up with, but you’ve got to have some of these, or you’ve got to be working on them.
- Focus On Long-term Results
- Listening Skills
- Speaking Carefully
- Drawing On Experience
- Sharing Success With Your Team
Betty Collins, CPA, Brady Ware & Company and Host of the “Inspiring Women” Podcast
Betty Collins is the Office Lead for Brady Ware’s Columbus office and a Shareholder in the firm. Betty joined Brady Ware & Company in 2012 through a merger with Nipps, Brown, Collins & Associates. She started her career in public accounting in 1988. Betty is co-leader of the Long Term Care service team, which helps providers of services to Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and nursing centers establish effective operational models that also maximize available funding. She consults with other small businesses, helping them prosper with advice on general operations management, cash flow optimization, and tax minimization strategies.
In addition, Betty serves on the Board of Directors for Brady Ware and Company. She leads Brady Ware’s Women’s Initiative, a program designed to empower female employees, allowing them to tap into unique resources and unleash their full potential. Betty helps her colleagues create a work/life balance while inspiring them to set and reach personal and professional goals. The Women’s Initiative promotes women-to-women business relationships for clients and holds an annual conference that supports women business owners, women leaders, and other women who want to succeed. Betty actively participates in women-oriented conferences through speaking engagements and board activity.
Betty is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and she is the President-elect for the Columbus Chapter. Brady Ware also partners with the Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA), an organization designed to help female business owners develop and implement a strong business strategy through education and mentorship, and Betty participates in their mentor match program. She is passionate about WSBA because she believes in their acceleration program and matching women with the right advisors to help them achieve their business ownership goals. Betty supports the WSBA and NAWBO because these organizations deliver resources that help other women-owned and managed businesses thrive.
Betty is a graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene College, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and a member of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. Betty is also the Board Chairwoman for the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce, and she serves on the Board of the Community Improvement Corporation of Gahanna as Treasurer.
“Inspiring Women” Podcast Series
“Inspiring Women” is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. The show is hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and presented by Brady Ware and Company. Brady Ware is committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home. Other episodes of “Inspiring Women” can be found here.
[00:00:00] Becoming the authentic leader that you envision and making sure you can build that team … Authentic leaders, being an authentic leader, the 10 steps of all of it … It’s everywhere; books, coaches, seminars on the why, the what, the who, and the how. It’s really, in my mind, almost overkill, but the sad truth is, with all of that help, and with all of those things, and with all that can be thrown at you, we are desperately looking for leadership that is authentic, in all aspects. From our society, from politics, to corporate America, to education systems, within our homes, within professional organizations, authentic leadership is really tough to find.
[00:00:46] Part of it is because it’s hard to be an authentic leader. Authentic leadership works on the principle that leaders can prove their legitimacy, their credibility, by nurturing sincere relationships with whoever they’re leading. Notice I did not say I am the leader, follow me! It isn’t about the title you finally got. “Get over it. Do as I say.” It really is nurturing sincere relationships. How do you do that?
[00:01:19] The word authentic also is way overused everywhere, but an authentic leader encourages their followers to be more open. They appreciate their support in the success of the organization, so they really want to hear from them. It doesn’t just promote them as the leader, or it doesn’t just promote individuals. It’s a team performance.
[00:01:41] When you want to be an authentic leader, it’s pretty tough. It’s a pretty high standard, and it takes a while to do. You’re not going to do that because you got your MBA, or something, or you’re just getting out of college, or even if you have years of experience. This is something you have to be pretty intentional about. If you are a true authentic leader, you’ll probably have certain characteristics. You probably can’t have all 10 that I’ve come up with, but you’ve got to have some of these, or you’ve got to be working on them.
[00:02:09] Who is the person in your life, at your company, in your career, in your past, maybe in your local government? In the professional organization, when you’re thinking authentic leader, who comes to your mind immediately? And then, I have to ask this – do you think you are an authentic leader? But, probably, the real question is do others see you as that?
[00:02:34] I want to talk about how do we get there, and what does it mean to be an authentic leader? These are just some basic ideas that I came across, and read about, and looked … I think I narrowed it down to 10 because I don’t know how you could do all 10 of these but let me go through them.
[00:02:50] Self-awareness. An authentic leader reflects upon their actions and some of their decisions, and they examine; all along their career, they’re examining how they’re doing those things, so they can try to not be biased, and, again, being open. You lead with your heart. You focus on the long-term results, integrity. That could be an entire podcast. You’ve got to lead with vision. You’ve got to listen, and carefully speak. Of course, transparency and consistency. Those are some things that I think have to be there for you to get the title – authentic leader.
[00:03:30] Let’s start with the first one – self-awareness. You’re reflecting on your actions, your decisions. You’re examining your own strengths and weaknesses. Then, you put a lot of effort to overcome the fears around … The people who fear maybe those things that are not going well, and you use your strengths to maximize. Self-awareness is not obsession with every aspect of your life so it’s all perfect, and it is not constantly analyzing yourself and then asking everyone’s opinion about it. Again, it’s really reflection; examination. I don’t know that you have to do it every day, but authentic leaders don’t really hide behind their flaws. They talk about them, and they acknowledge them. A lot of times they get people around them that can maybe fill in where they are not that way.
[00:04:24] Being an authentic leader is hard work and it takes years of experience, and you’re going to fail. But everyone behaves inauthentically – is that a word? – at times, and they say things and do things they regret. So, the key is to have self-awareness; to recognize those times where you listen, and you listen to your colleagues, and wherever you’re leading as this authentic leader, who can point them out to you, and you can go, “Okay, I get that.”
[00:04:54] If you’re going to be an authentic leader, you’ve got to lead with your heart. Probably not afraid to dig deep. Those people that can go, “Let’s just get to the core of it.” They lead their team with courage. There’s a lot of empathy, because if you’re going to really lead from the heart and listen, it takes empathy. I’m not always an empathetic person. It’s a skill that I really have to work on. Being all heart also doesn’t mean you just lead with your emotions, or you feel good, therefore, that must be coming from the heart; or you feel bad, and that’s really coming from the core.
[00:05:31] Two situations. One, I had someone … We always had kind of a flex time in one of the companies that I worked with. One of those things was as long as you got your eight-hour day in, you were good. This was well before everybody now has flex time or works out of your house. We had somebody who really loved flex time, because they wanted to eat breakfast with their kids every morning and take them to school. The problem with his authentic leadership, though, was when it came 5:00, and he still had two more hours, he didn’t hesitate to go into someone’s office at 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00, and sit there and talk and even follow them to their car. He really wasn’t authentic. Liked it for himself. Didn’t let others do it.
[00:06:18] I will say, of course, I’m either very egotistical, or very insecure, but I will say this with as much humbleness as I can … The success of the women’s initiative at Brady Ware, my CEO directly said this to me from the beginning; he said, “You are a leader for this because you wear the emotions on your sleeve. Your passion is there for everybody to see, and it comes out at the very core, and that’s why the Brady Ware women’s initiative is successful.” For me to have a legacy and to pass this on to someone, I’ve got to find someone with that same thing. You lead with the heart. We’ve had some success with that. It was a very nice compliment, for sure, and I’ve tried to use that in other areas, if I have that much passion. When I don’t have that kind of, where I can lead from the heart, I kind of question should I be doing this?
[00:07:14] You’ve got to focus on long-term results, when you are an authentic leader. You don’t waste a whole lot of time worrying about maybe temporary setbacks or things that just didn’t go well. You cannot always have a stellar month. You cannot always have a stellar year. You’ve got to look long term. You know this is the right thing. It takes patience, and it takes hard work, but you can yield some rich results in the long run. So, looking forward by learning from the past generally results in good. But, again, everything can’t be stellar and huge all the time.
[00:07:50] I hope you get the correlation; I’m going to try to describe this … I ran in a 5K only one time. It was time to get my health in order, and the book I was reading at the time said, “Find the exercise you like, and you exercise.” I said, okay, I’m going to run. I’m going to be a runner. I prepped for the 5K, somewhat, and I loved more buying the shoes, and the matching gear, and being part of the big day more. It was a community thing. At the end of the day, the race was kind of tough, but I kept my focus because I did know – when I was tired – it’s like everyone else is doing this. We can get there. There is a finish line. I met the goal. I was part of the community. It’s all really good. I finished about mid-pack, which I didn’t think was bad because I was in my 50s. I wasn’t in first place. It wasn’t this big result, but it was all part of my health plan.
[00:08:51] So, instead of going, “Well, that didn’t work,” I just moved on to something that maybe did work. It led me to the next part of my physical health, which was really just getting a trainer. I lost, over four, or five months’ time, about 19 pounds, 13 inches. Now, those habits are really in place. I wasn’t about what I was going to look like, when I worked out at the gym with her, or whatever it was. So, I took that and learned from my past; didn’t get buried down in that one more thing didn’t work about weight. Instead, I said I’m going to look at this long term.
[00:09:25] I prep now; I focus; I’m more patient. If I would have just said, “No more 5ks. I’m done,” I wouldn’t have the amazing results I have right now. I didn’t waste time focusing on what I didn’t accomplish in that race. Instead, I found another way to move forward and applied that somewhat to how I lead in business. It’s okay that something didn’t work. If it doesn’t, don’t keep doing it over. I wasn’t going to keep running races that I wasn’t prepared for, but I am going to, day by day, deal with my health. So, focus on the long-term results.
[00:09:58] Integrity … Just not there today. I had a great book back in the day about President Ronald Reagan, “When Character was King,” and it was all about integrity. I would still vote for him today. That would be who I’d write in on the ballot. He was authentic to me. He wasn’t perfect, but integrity mattered to him. Of course, I’m a pretty conservative person, so, of course, I’m going to be drawn to him, but integrity was key. He just didn’t say things to say them. Generally, hat he said he meant. I kind of look that way with Barack Obama, as well. President Obama was a progressive left; he said that. He also said, “This is what I believe, and this is what I’m going to do.” There wasn’t any- What’s the word I want? There wasn’t any delusion about it. They both had different ways about their character, and integrity, because they were doing what they believed, and what they said, they meant. They were respected, yet two very, very different men.
[00:10:59] Chances are, two people can say the same thing. The one who’s listened to probably has integrity and probably has some credibility, especially with the world we have today. If you really step back and go, “I want to understand more about integrity. I’ve got to figure that out, and character, that matters in my character …” you will be a leader, far past a lot of people.
[00:11:26] You have to lead with vision. Authentic leaders lead with purpose and vision. Chances are, they’re going to add value to the people that they interact with, the team, and they’re going to help people also be part of the vision. They are not just the vision. That’s why I say- that’s only five, and I’m exhausted thinking about all the things I have to do to be the leader. We’ve got five more … We’ll finish up.
[00:11:50] Listening skills and carefully speaking. What a mess we are in today with the ability to not listen and the ability to say whatever we think, and we call that freedom. Well, I look at it as a good leader … As we are making decisions right now about a next president, a good authentic leader is a good listener. Even when they don’t like your views, or you don’t like theirs, there’s listening involved.
[00:12:22] Authentic leaders also monitor their words. They’re very careful to how they say things to the audience. Not because of political correctness, which has gone beyond, they do it because maybe they’re sensitive to the person who’s going to hear those; the impact, the actions. They’re not just messaging the right talking points. People can read right through that. Too much of today, and not just in politics, but our culture, in general, is we don’t listen, and we speak way too quickly. You want to be a better leader? People will gravitate to you, if you have listening skills and carefully speak. It’s definitely part of being that authentic leader.
[00:13:09] Transparency … Authentic leaders obviously believe in open communication and combine their directness with empathy. I hope you heard that. They combine their directness with empathy. Transparency doesn’t mean, “Well, I told you, and I spilled my guts, and now everyone knows everything.” That might be transparency. It also might be maybe a little stupidity. “What you see is what you get” – that can be dangerous. “Well, this is just who I am!” Those things are not transparency.
[00:13:37] We had somebody who, years ago, they were my client and always talked about his faith; always talked about transparency, and open, and honesty. Yet everyone knew he was having an affair with the administrative assistant. Everyone knew it. He didn’t know that everyone knew it … So, his transparency, no matter what, wasn’t there. It just wasn’t there. We really need it today. Transparency is about open communication; being direct with some empathy; and not just saying what you think needs to be said. People see who you are, most of the time, or they at least have some idea.
[00:14:18] Consistency … Consistent people in your life. I want you to be thinking, who is that, and why do you go to that person on your team? It’s because they’re consistent, and you can count on them. Well, they need the same thing from you as a leader. They’re not probably going to be allured into things and allow things that just don’t … They’re not with the plan. They’re not with the steps. They’re not with what needs to happen. Consistency is a huge important thing. Sometimes, you need to divert; sometimes, you need to take another fork in the road. I get that, but, generally, in business and when you’re leading, and you want a team to follow, you can’t live in too much ‘let’s just shoot from the hip and go over here.’ You’ve got to stay with some things, and consistency is part of that.
[00:14:57] Probably the hardest things for leaders, especially authentic, but this is one you could really just say, “I’m going to make an effort on this,” is sharing your success with your team. Everybody wants to take the credit for it. Really, when you build the team around you, and give credit, and you do it as a team, you have so much- so much more different results.
[00:15:17] Drawing on experience … I’m 56, and I have a lot to say, and I probably have a lot of good stories to tell you. It doesn’t mean, because I tell them, and I learned the hard way, it makes me authentic. But stellar leadership will absolutely share their experiences and really have compassion that you don’t experience that. Or they might have compassion for you to experience it because you need to.
[00:15:39] Rhett Ricart is a common name in Columbus. Of course, they have Ricart Ford, which is a- many years, it’s been number one in the country. It’s a huge, huge organization. He’s a great speaker, and he does a great presentation on his 13 mistakes. He takes that experience, and he throws it out there and says, “This is what I did.”
[00:16:02] One of the ones I loved, he talked about ‘Don’t teach your employees to steal.’ I’m like, wow … He said, because, you know, if you were a Ricart, you could fill up your gas tank and get your tires changed, and no one ever paid for any of that. You just ate lunch on the … All the different things you do as an owner. Then, when your employees start doing that, you’re kind of mad, because you’re like, “What are you doing?” “Well, you guys do it. You’re employees here. Okay, you’re owners, but …” He just talked very, very openly about, “These are the things I didn’t do well, and I don’t want you to do that.” He’s very authentic about it. He doesn’t talk about he was perfect the whole way and that’s why they’re number one.
[00:16:40] Authentic leadership – I’ll end with this. Your team deserves it. It’s next to impossible to do all 10 of these, but I would certainly look at the ones where you’re struggling in and make an effort to put some change there; to get your mindset differently and to really get some open, honest communication about it because your team deserves it. They need you to strive towards becoming the authentic leader. Then, one day, you’ll probably create authentic leaders around you. I’m Betty Collins. Thank you for listening today.