Most people associate authenticity with being true to oneself — or “walking the talk.” But there’s a problem with that association; it focuses on how you feel about yourself. Authenticity is actually a relational behavior, not a self-centered one. Meaning that to be truly authentic, you must not only be comfortable with yourself, but must also comfortably connect with others.
— Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins
We’ve reached the end of our focus on the MnSCU competency of “Leader as Relationship Builder.” We talked about valuing diversity, communicating effectively, and most recently, building trust.
As we think about building relationships, it’s much more about who we are with other people than what we do. Our actions come from our intentions, but other people give their own meaning to those actions. Did I omit the director from the invitation list accidentally, because I was trying to protect her time, or because I wanted to have an important conversation behind her back? I know what my intention was, but the story she tells herself will be based on the relationship we’ve built.
I recently read a blog posting from Harvard Business Review that summarizes what it means to be a leader who builds relationships. The authors, quoted above, described three areas of focus that can help:
- Point of view: Do others know what you stand for? Are you willing to discuss it with strength and flexibility?
- Positioning: How do you gain support for your initiatives? Do you navigate organizational politics transparently?
- Personal history: Do people understand the events that shape who you are as a leader? Are you carrying old messages that get in your way?
Building relationships is my favorite part of leadership. It’s also the most challenging. Keeping these three points in mind helps me to value others, communicate clearly, and establish trust.
Dee Anne Bonebright