As a leader, you are a powerful change agent. You are both the messenger and the message. But what if you don’t agree with the message you are responsible for delivering? Perhaps you need to relay to employees that your company is halting operations in a certain region despite the fact that you see enormous potential. Perhaps you need to tell your team that you are restricting company travel despite your strong disfavor of the policy? Rather than pretending to agree with the message, it’s best to be authentic. The best way to do this? You need to change the message.
You can’t fake it
Our body language is powerful. As a leader, you’re constantly being put under a microscope. Your words and actions carry a lot of weight. No matter how hard you try, you can’t fake authenticity. Your employees will sense when you’re not being genuine. The subtlest cues like voice intonation, hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language can reveal your true colors. If employees sense that you aren’t being genuine in delivering a message, they will quickly lose trust in you.
Honesty is the best policy
Authenticity and genuineness are hallmarks of effective leaders. As a leader, your words must match your actions. A study by researchers at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington found that sincere and genuine leaders are far more effective at motivating individuals because they gain high levels of trust and admiration, through both their words and their actions. Honesty is, by far, the most valued leadership quality.
Hinge on your values
It’s often easiest to consent. When your superiors ask you to deliver a message, it’s easy to be a sycophant and deliver the message you’re supposed to. This is a recipe for disaster. In order to prevent the temptation to succumb to someone else’s vision, go back to your values. Ground yourself in your essential truths. If you’re asked to deliver a message that doesn’t align with your message, it’s simply not worth it. In these cases, it’s best to change the message.
Start from a place of empathy
How do you go about changing the message? It’s often most effective to start from a place of empathy. The overarching message you need to deliver may be set in stone. Perhaps the only way to keep your business afloat is to lay off workers. But this doesn’t mean you can’t add empathy to the message. Let the receivers know that you’re disappointed with the decision, know that the situation isn’t fair, and offer an arm of support throughout the difficult process. Even if the message is tough, you won’t lose respect and trust
In their book “The Truth About Leadership", Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, two of the world’s leading academic researchers on the science of leadership, distill their extensive research into 10 laws of leadership. Their first law of leadership? “If you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message.” Leaders can only act as powerful change agents when they exude credibility. The messenger is the message.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner