What does real, Authentic Leadership look like?
“This may sound crazy, but it’s hard for us when someone turns down a raise,”
That was a recent comment from the Board President at the University of Cincinnati. Not only that, but it’s the third year in a row the university chief, President Santa Ono, has donated his bonus.
I thought of this gentleman the other day as I read about CEO’s and their teams taking massive pay cuts to ease the pain on their workforce during these troubled times.
Since 2013, President Ono has turned down his six-figure bonus and declined a raise. He reasons that he donates it to various funds and to help the college students.
What does leadership look like?
According to Chief Learning Officer Magazine, estimates that leadership development spending as high as $50 billion annually. That is a significant commitment of financial firepower to back up what many see as central to future business success. If you Google leadership development, you will get approximately 790 billion hits.
There are off-sites for leadership development. Business schools and their professors have gotten in on the game. My mailbox is hit at least a few times a week on some new technique for being a leader.
The flawed leadership model that was idolized years ago is flawed, in my opinion. Dr. Santa Ono exhibited leadership in such a compelling way that it says more about a real leader than any course could ever teach.
I have always felt that leadership is about caring for the people around you. Anything you can do to further their hopes and dreams enables the organization to move forward. As my friend Peter Makowski, General Manager of Abu Dhabi hospital,
“My job is to care for the people who care for the people.”
Making the connection
“Having a child is a life-changing experience and this policy means our employees have the opportunity to enjoy time with their families and have a great career,” said Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group.
The policy he referred to was one year of maternity leave with full pay that Virgin announced to its employees.
“If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business. That is a philosophy that has served us well for more than four decades and is the foundation of everything we do at Virgin,” Branson said.
I am a sucker for these types of initiatives because they show exactly what real leadership is about.
You can’t program genuine leadership
This real type of leadership can’t be programmed. I wrote an article a while back about a CEO who extolled the values of leadership and how he runs his organization. Only later did I find out that this is the same guy who walks in every morning and walks past numerous desks on the way to his office without the most common morning courtesy of “Good Morning.” But he calls himself a real leader.
Leadership is about the small things that you do. Big pronouncements and chest-thumping do not mean leadership.
Another former CEO who I had the honor of knowing would gladly stop by the mailroom on the way to her office. She would hold her own in spirited discussions on last night’s games.
What this showed was a real person connecting to the lowest level on our organizational chart. To them, she was just Sharon, not the founding CEO of this company.
The real power in your organization
This is what real authentic leadership is about. It is about connecting to the people throughout the organization
To get your employees excited about working for your organization, leadership has to connect. If you want problems solved, expressing new ideas, and taking care of customers, you can’t do it without this connection.
The strength in your organization is not your leadership team, but, where the majority of your workers sit. Leadership is only a small percentage of your workforce
Companies need this not just from top performers and leaders but from every employee every day. The only distinction between organizations today, and this is true more than ever, is their people and the effort they exert every day.
A connection can be an unlimited source of energy. When that level of trust is built between all connecting parties, bright days will follow.
So forget the next new thing in leadership development. If your leader cannot connect on a personal level, there is no course or development opportunity that will make them the leader that you need.
Ron Thomas is Managing Director, StrategyFocused Group DWC-LLC, based in Dubai.
He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf countries, also based in Dubai. A former CHRO who was based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Ron is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute [hci.org ] covering the MENA region. He...