How do you remain authentic when you are responsible for leading change and you do not agree with it or don’t feel comfortable supporting the change? There are times in every leader’s leadership journey that he or she must be authentic and confidently lead others through a change, when the leader is not feeling supportive of the change.
Feeling unsupportive of a change is not a leadership travesty unless you communicate your lack of support. Everyone needs time to understand, absorb and adopt a change. No matter where a leader is in his or her transition process, there is an obligation as a leader to be actively and visibly involved in the change, communicate about the change and get others to support the change. Staying on the sidelines is incongruent with good change leadership.
Tips for leading through change authentically:
- Delineate – get clear about the roles you play. A critical mistake is confusing the private role of an employee and the public role of a manager or leader within an organization. These are two separate and distinct roles. If you have children, think about the difference between your interaction with your spouse and your interaction with your kids. Spouse and parent are two different roles just as leader and employee are two different roles you play.
- Describe – share the change with employees in their context not in yours. During change, leaders often struggle to share anything because they don’t have all the answers. Describe the connection between the change and the organizational direction (strategy) and values. Or describe the process that is being followed to implement the change. People need to feel certainty. It is the leader’s responsibility to share what people need to know, when they need to know it versus telling employees everything they know.
- Designate – you need a confidant such as a coach or trusted colleague (at a peer or above level) that you can talk to and share the “private truth” of your doubts or concerns. A leader’s personal fears or uncertainty is never appropriate to share with employees. On a flight several years ago the oxygen masks dropped and the flight attendant became visible shaken. She started telling the passengers how she had never experienced this before and she did not know what was going on. This inappropriate sharing intensified the fear felt by the passengers. Leaders should never inflict their uncertainty on their employees.
Authenticity in leadership is about being trustworthy. Trust is a critical character quality for leadership. It’s expressed by leaders when their words match their actions. Being trustworthy does not mean telling everything you know or sharing everything you feel.
Be a trustworthy, authentic leader through change by taking time to delineate, describe and designate. You will be more effective as you lead others through change.
Next week, we’ll share two more tips to address the challenge of being an authentic leader in the midst of change.