Inauthentic Leadership: What Causes It and What Can You Do?

December 18, 2017 Nancy Anderson

It doesn’t matter if you lead at a corporate executive level, regional or single facility, you have an incredible opportunity to impact employee productivity and overall organizational performance. Through your leadership, you can affirm employee engagement as a strategic priority and use the power of an engaged workforce to intentionally guide your organization to be the best, not only for your employees but also the individuals you serve.

More than ever, senior care organizations need leaders who continually build their capacity for authentic leadership. Authentic leadership is built on compassion, empathy and a willingness to be vulnerable. Seems simple: Lead with compassion and genuineness, and you should be perceived as a compassionate and genuine person, right? There is a catch, and here it is: All too often, a leader’s behaviors, even well-intended, can end up alienating instead of engaging employees.

Advances in neuroscience tell us that when power goes to your head, it may shut out your heart. Power actually changes how your brain functions. When people feel power over others, it diminishes feelings of empathy. Why might employees feel cynical and suspicious of people in higher level roles? According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, 63% of employees don’t trust their leaders. When people experience their leaders as aloof, disingenuous, arrogant or patronizing, it’s pretty clear why they might feel resentful.

Even if you feel as though you are an authentic leader, your brain may be playing tricks on you. New research tells us that having positional power can lead to behaviors that are inauthentic and ego-laden.

What can you do? My biggest piece of advice is to be real. Sharing information about who you are as a person and what’s most important to you allows others around you to recognize what they have in common with you. Employees want to know about your interests and your personal values. They want to hear about the obstacles you’ve faced and the successes you’ve experienced. They want to know you as a real person versus a figurehead.

When your employees discover similarities you share, you begin earning their trust. And it’s not just coincidence. Our brain makes the decision to trust other people based on whether or not that person is “like me”. If you can demonstrate openness, authenticity, and empathy, and make it tangible by validating those feelings through real, open connections, you’ll have the best chance at overriding the influence that status, rank, and authority have on your leadership presence.

To learn more about becoming an effective leader, check out How to Mobilize Leaders: 3 Tips for Leaders at All Levels

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