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Reducing talent drain with authentic leadership

Don't be a manager who fails to connect with employees and blindsides them with your displeasure. Learn how to be authentic, instead.

5 min read


Reducing talent drain with authentic leadership


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Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today’s post is by Mike Horne.

Anne, an experienced and respected colleague, thought everything was going well at work. She had regular check-ins with her manager, Doug, and despite frequent calendar shifts, Anne chalked up the frequent changes to Doug’s demanding calendar and didn’t think much of it. However, it might have been an early warning that things were amiss.

Still, Anne didn’t worry. She approached her manager warmly and with fondness. She was open with her feelings and routinely asked Doug if there was anything he needed or wanted. Doug never checked in on Anne’s customers, who were delighted with the value she contributed to their businesses.

And then, out of the blue, Doug told Anne that she was no longer part of the team, an employee at will, and to expect to receive a severance package.

Anne missed several warning signs that she worked for a manager who wasn’t matching his actions and words.

Authentic leaders serve to build trust and serve up communication with colleagues and team members openly and transparently. Authentic leaders influence others through ethical and honest relationships. Time and again, research establishes that authentic leaders engender happy employees who, in turn, bring more value to the attainment of team and organizational goals.

As a manager, Doug failed to develop a productive and meaningful partnership with Anne. Meetings between Anne and Doug often seemed more like a chore than an invitation.

A first and recurring theme in Anne and Doug’s relationship was that Doug expressed no interest in Anne as a person. He did not ask things like “How is your family?” or “How was the weekend?” In fact, Doug rarely said, “Hello.”

Authentic leaders build relationships with others through appropriate personal disclosures — for example, hobbies, sports teams and family stories. These increase connection and commonness, reminding us of the basic human need to feel valued, particularly in the trying times everyone has encountered during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Anne also should have realized that when Doug needed something, all lights flashed red, and deadlines were imminent. Planning and forethought did not rule the day, creating an uneasy urgency in the mundane tasks.

Despite frantic deadlines, Anne produced but never heard a “thank you.” If you want to know more about the power of “thank you,” you’ll discover it as a key ingredient behind the fantastic success of casual dining giant Chick-Fil-A. Affection and care cannot flourish in the absence of appreciation.

Among the greatest gifts we give each other as teammates is the ability to help others clarify their needs and wants. Doug’s response to Anne’s routine questions — “Is there anything you need from me” and “How can I help?” — always received the same response, “No, Anne, everything is great.” During a performance discussion, Anne raised her discomfort with what had become their call and response. When Anne inquired more, Doug followed with silence. Again, everything was great until it wasn’t.

Authentic leaders demonstrate their respect for others by honoring their commitments, including the treasured resources of time. When meetings shift unexpectedly, randomly and routinely, a manager and employee should explore the causes and outcomes of the situation. It might require a simple change such as changing the day of the week or the time of the meeting. For some, as with Anne and Doug, no one wants to be kept on hold, either in-person or on Zoom.

Finally, for Anne and Doug, role-formality (“I’m the boss”) and guarded communication ruled their experiences and interactions.

Authentic leaders and those aspiring to lead authentically turn up the friendly in their approaches with others. Also, they replace guarded and cautious communication with openness and transparency.

Anne and Doug’s experience underscores the need for authentic leaders and leadership to avoid the consequences of poor morale, reduced engagement and diminished productivity. Experience and research demonstrate that authentic leadership produces better outcomes than outdated and inconsequential leadership styles.

Words and actions matter in organizations, and authentic leaders are at the helm of high-performing teams and organizations.

We all want to feel appreciated, recognized and valued. Teams and organizations benefit when everyone is able to bring their best in every situation at work. Let’s be the catalysts for increasing Authentic leadership!


Mike Horne is a visionary advisor, leader, and partner to those working on complex people, group, and organizational challenges. He opens doors for people to be and do their best. As a changemaker, Horne works with a deep sense of confidence and dedication. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Integrity by Design: Working and Living Authentically.

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