When I recently showed, as an example of connected leadership, the moving video of Leonhard Bernstein conducting his orchestra, two participants objected, on the ground that the famous master Karajan’s style was, to say the least, far more directive, and that it hadn’t prevented him from being considered the best. Knowing of the Austrian Master’s reputation, I was taken a bit “wrong footed” by those comments. So I spent part of my vacation tracing back videos of the conductor and found that one thing, beyond being more or less directive, was probably explaining the charisma and authority of Herbert von Karajan. It was something very intangible which clearly appears on this equally moving clip: Authenticity. His Authenticity generates Trust, which in turn brings Respect. Please take a look at what those three together generate when playing Beethoven’s 7th Symphony…
This brought me back to a discussion held in Germany with high potential leaders of a large multinational. Their context was leading change. In such a case, one of our advice is to remember William Schutz’s F.I.R.O. model. Following it, we all have developed needs since early childhood, through which we screen our environments and in particular the leaders seeking to engage us into change:
- Inclusion: is about social needs. To simplify, people who are mainly inclusion driven will judge their leaders on their capacity to invite, show respect and significance to them.
- Control: is about competence and self assurance. People with high control needs will scrutinize their leaders in search of signs of competence. Can I trust this leader? Does he deserve my professional respect?
- Affection: is about vulnerability, openness and transparency. This is where the “smell for Authenticity” hides which some followers look for into their leaders. Do I trust him? Is he in it for himself or for us? are the intuitive questions people ask themselves here.
As people do not walk around with their preferences written on their badge and because we all have those three needs in different intensity, the safest bet for a leader wishing to engage his team is to work at the three levels at the same time.
The discussion went on around the topic of Authenticity, as most of the participants felt that, at this point in their career, they were able to handle decently the needs for inclusion and control but authenticity was more delicate. They all agreed that, Trust being more and more of the currency in leadership and change, Authenticity was not an option but a must. “How can I be authentic however, when asked to lead a change which I don’t fully agree with?” The loyalty conflict was obvious: I need to be authentic but can’t betray those who entrusted me to drive the change.
After an interesting discussion, an image emerged: Walking the thin line of authenticity! On the one side, I can not collude with my people “against” the hierarchy. I have chosen to stay as a leader in the firm, I may not agree with some of the direction we take but I obviously failed in influencing it. On the other side of the rope, at no point in time should I appear myself as a victim of circumstances (It’s the Board who decided… not me etc…). I would loose instantaneously the respect of my people. And in the middle is the tightrope of authentically sharing my own doubts and reservations but leaving it clear that my energy will be to support the change whatever my own personal opinion is.
I found it helpful and many of the leaders present in the room appeared relieved and more confident… Hope this is of value to you for this first post of the year 2011.
A close friend of mine, CEO of a multinational consultancy just wished me: “a fulfilling 2011 year, with a good balance between family, health and work. Let us be grateful for the great clients we have the honor to serve, let us create opportunities for more innovative work together and fun! Let’s keep it ‘an asshole free’ 2011!”. This is my wish to you all!
After an experiential event on top of the mountains and some days in Paris, I am now on my way to Lyon.
Have a great week all. Didier