Last week a video of President Obama singing a snippet of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” went viral. Everyone was talking about the President’s singing skills, which were pretty good, but let’s talk about the couple of seconds after he made the crowd go wild with his singing. Obama says while gesturing to his aides offstage, “Those guys didn’t think I was gonna do it…I told you I was gonna do it.” An endearing moment for sure. The focus here is not on the politics, instead, it’s about authenticity. The way Obama plays to his staff makes the viewer of this moment think about making bets and jokes among friends. I’m sure his staff was thrilled when he actually showed his singing chops on stage. Obama has a much bigger stage than most business leaders do on a day-to-day basis, but the principles for being authentic with your staff apply, and it applies when you look to develop your high potentials into future leaders.
Leading authentically means showing your human side. Today’s employees are looking for honesty and transparency in their leaders. Of course this applies to ethical business practices, but after all the scandals of the early 2000s, let’s just assume we’ve all heard that message loud and clear. What I’m referring to here is that employees don’t want to be led by an automaton. The surest way to show your authentic self: get in touch with what makes you you. Do you have a hidden talent that is work-appropriate? Share it. Use something you’re passionate about as a metaphor for what you’re trying to accomplish at work. Reverend Al Green is in the building? Sing a snippet of one of his songs as an homage, and you’ll be in the forefront of people’s minds. It’s okay to bring your outside passions to work when you can. It’s okay to be emotional. This does not mean you need to cry (like Tebow). Just show your team your passion, humor, or honesty about a subject and you will inspire them, and connect with them!
3 Ways to Think About Developing Authentic Leaders:
- Care: What are they passionate about? What do they “geek out” about? Everyone has something they go completely nerdy for – whatever it is, use it to your advantage. Chances are someone else on the team is passionate about the same thing. If not, at least they’re showing their passion and everyone can respect that. Nerds are so in right now.
- Share: Great leaders get everyone in on their passion. Let’s face it; everyone likes to talk about things they love. Have your high potentials use this enthusiasm to motivate and inspire the team. When they’re excited about a topic, there’s a good chance that others will be too. Leaders’ emotions have to be ratcheted up ten times more than their team to be infectious. Show your high potentials how to latch on and own their passion (read: model behavior) so the team knows it’s okay to be just as excited.
- Where: I’m not advocating that you start every meeting with your best Al Green impression – that would be overkill. Help your up-and-coming leaders find appropriate times to tie their passions to business objectives. Your next internal meeting might be a good place to use something they’re passionate about as a metaphor. That tandem bike trip they over the weekend might actually help explain the goals for how they need the team to work together this quarter.
President Obama is in campaign mode this year, so he needs to get people to remember him and fall in love with him again. Just by singing a snippet of a song he had millions tweeting about him and talking about him everywhere. Think about something you could do to get your team to remember your objectives – it might include something authentically geeky about yourself.
Photo credit: epSos.de