Becoming an Authentic Leader: Using Situational Analysis

Situational Analysis How to use the five elements of innovative leadership to become a more authentic leader is the focus of this five-blog series. We’ll explore each element and provide recommended next steps. The fourth component of innovative leadership is how an understanding of situational analysis helps you become more authentic and creates a more authentic workplace.

According to a Forbes article, “What is Authentic Leadership?” most theorists agree on four points. The first is: Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine. Authentic leaders are self-actualized individuals who are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. They also show their real selves to their followers. They do not act one way in private and another in public; they don’t hide their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. They also realize that being self-actualized is an endless journey, never complete.”

I recently conducted a workshop with a client that used the situational analysis framework to address a very complex corporate issue. The company, like many, is trying to balance cutting an employee benefit to remain profitable without impacting employee morale, engagement and organizational culture. This is a private company with a very strong belief in caring for their employees and consistently providing benefits higher than the industry standard. In a highly competitive industry with very thin margins, these benefits impact overall organizational performance and—if not managed carefully—can have a negative financial impact on the organization.

During the workshop with the entire leadership team we asked a set of four questions to encourage an open discussion of the balance between their beliefs, behaviors, culture, and organizational systems.

Situational Analysis Reflection Questions

Individual self/beliefs

    1. List my top three personal values as a leader.
    2. How do my values impact this decision?
Action

    1. How will this decision impact my ability to live my values?
    2. How will this decision impact my behavior as a leader?
Culture

    1. How does this decision align with our purpose and values?
    2. How does this decision impact our ability to meet our goals
System

    1. Is this decision aligned with our systems? If we implement it, will there be conflicts that confuse people?
    2. Will making this choice cause us to miss our goals in other areas of the business?

Using these questions as the foundation, the leadership team explored the pros and cons of their possible options. In addition to addressing this specific complex issue, they also adopted this approach to addressing other issues.

So, what does this have to do with authentic leadership? Leaders must be self-aware and genuine. The first two sets of questions in the table help leaders discuss their personal values in an organizational setting and explore how those values impact current decisions. Then they talk about how to address a current challenge by taking action on their values. This approach becomes most valuable when the leadership team grapples with the balance of personal values and organizational requirements. These often come into conflict and leaders are compelled to choose between two undesirable options: violating their values, or making decisions that are opposed to the organization’s best interest.

While there is no easy solution to the complex problems organizations are facing, we believe this approach to exploring challenges candidly and discussing personal beliefs and values, individual actions, organizational culture, and organizational systems creates shared support for decisions and provides a powerful platform for open dialogue about complex issues. Because it takes into account values along with profitability, this approach builds trust among leaders that the process is ethical.

As an authentic leader in a complex environment, you will regularly be making difficult decisions. This approach to decision making can help you think through the challenges and ask yourself the questions that allow you to remain authentic and ethical, and still make the tough decisions required for your organization to survive. As others begin to understand and trust this process, they will also see you as more authentic and more readily trust your leadership.

To learn more about becoming a more authentic leader using Innovative Leadership we recommend taking leadership assessments, reading the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

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