Authentic leadership involves understanding that everyone has a unique journey, and everyone brings some kind of baggage to the office. You don’t have to understand the baggage; you simply have to understand that they have it.
On today’s episode of The Sales Evangelist, Dr. James Kelley, professor of marketing, talks to us about authentic leadership, his authentic leader model, and about how adversity creates better leaders.
Dr. Kelley hosts the podcast Executive After Hours, and he noticed a recurring theme that occurred during his podcast conversations: adversity changes people.
Growth from adversity
Dr. Kelley recounted the story of Joe Burton, who became the COO of McCann Erickson Worldgroup by the time he was 40 years old.
He was unbelievably successful, but he was miserable. He was aggressive with his employees, unhappy with his wife, and his body was physically breaking down.
When Joe inventoried his life, he realized he had lost his twin sister and his older sister within the span of two and a half years. He had also lost his dad about 12 years earlier.
The sheer amount of adversity caused him to reflect on his life, and it led him to launch Whil.com, a company that specializes in mindfulness. His own adversity transformed his life and made him more aware of his challenges, and it set him on a new path.
Likewise, Bridgette Mayer owns an art gallery in Philadelphia. She grew up in a crack house with six siblings until she and two of her sisters were adopted by a single family.
Her older sister committed suicide and the younger one landed in drug rehab. Bridgette, meanwhile, graduated from high school and then college, and then opened her own gallery.
So why did Bridgette succeed where his sisters hadn’t? She says it’s because she embraced adversity and reframed her challenges as opportunities. She had the right people around her at the right time to give her the right advice, and she was willing to listen.
Dr. Kelley believes that our adversity connects us to other people.
When he was in sales, he quickly learned that personal stories connect people faster than almost any other tool. Relatable stories like death or divorce create an instant bond that establishes immediate trust.
Dr. Kelley’s leadership model
Grab a piece of paper and a pencil.
Draw a medium circle and write the word ‘crucible’ inside. Now draw a circle outside of that, like you’re drawing a bulls-eye.
At the top of the outer circle write ‘self-awareness’ and leave the bottom portion of the outer circle empty.
Then draw one more circle on the outside of the first two, and write the words ‘compassion,’ ‘integrity,’ and ‘relatableness’ in that circle.
Dr. Kelley’s leadership research suggests that when people embrace their adversity or their crucible moment, their framing of that moment determines the effect it will have on their future.
Most people treat adversity as something that happens to them instead of viewing it as an opportunity to learn something new.
Those who frame adversity in a positive way, though it might take six months or a year, deepen their self-awareness.
They discover that they actually want to treat people with respect. They want to have compassion for people and relieve their suffering.
As your self-awareness grows, you move out into the model a bit, and you eventually discover that you’d like to live with a little bit more integrity and honesty. Because that’s how you want to be treated, you discover that it’s the best way to treat others.
You discover that as you have hard conversations that demand honesty, you build trust and loyalty, and you discover that relationships play a very significant part in your life.
As you learn to embrace relatableness, you seek ways to create micro-moments and meaning.
Without a growth mindset, you have self-awareness but nothing to do with it. When people embrace a learning mindset, that’s when they start to develop.
You become a much more authentic person and you spend every day trying to improve yourself for you rather than for anyone else.
You have to know that people have bad days.
If you see an empty water cup on an employee’s desk and you refill it, you’re demonstrating compassion and kindness.
Those micro-moments develop trust and compassion and integrity, and the return-on-investment is much greater than in companies that don’t embrace this culture.
If we take care of the employees first, they will take care of the organization.
Dr. Kelley believes that hiring a coach is the key to understanding your own adversity. He believes that evaluating your adversity and figuring out what you’ve learned that you can take forward is the key to success.
Being able to admit that you don’t know everything and surrounding yourself with people who can help you achieve your goals will help you better embrace your adversity.
“Authentic Leader” episode resources
You can connect with Dr. Kelley at his website, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find The Crucible’s Gift: 5 Lessons From Authentic Leaders Who Thrive In Adversity on his website or on Amazon.
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