Welcome to the qChange Blog. The aim here is to provide content that is relevant, meaningful, and hopefully insightful you the reader. As a team, Rob, John, random guests, and myself will provide a variety of content that we hope matters.
For this weeks blog, I think it is appropriate to talk about leading in a time a stress. I haven't seen much out there on the topic at the minute. :) As a recovering academic, it feels safe to turn to academic research for support. For this article I read, Authentic leadership and leaders' mental well-being: An experience sampling study, by Matthias Weiss, Stefan Razinskas, Julia Backmann, & Martin Hoegl, in 2018, published in Leadership Quarterly.
The research team focused on the impact an authentic leader have on teams well-being. Specifically, how does authenticity impact a leader’s workplace stress, workplace engagement and how does mental depletion impact both. Weiss and colleges utilized 44 executives who reported five-times a day over 10 days. The daily journal entries were focused on engagement, stress and mental depletion.
They found that when a leader is more authentic they are more productive, less stressed and minimize mental depletion. Here is what is interesting. The mental depletion is one-part impression management and one part surface acting. Impression management is the art of a leader promoting particular values that are not congruent with their felt values. This creates a tension and in turn, mental depletion. Whereas surface acting occurs when a leader engages in fake emotions while engaging with other employees, also leading to mental depletion.
The reality is that many of us do this to some degree. However, it is when we engage in these behaviors at a high degree that felt mental depletion impacts our stress and workplace engagement.
Boy, it seems pretty relevant in today's remote workforce, where leaders and teams are trying to navigate uncharted territories.
So what do you do?
There was a recent Adam Grant discussed on his podcast Work Life the role authenticity plays in the workplace (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/worklife-with-adam-grant/id1346314086?i=1000470721542). Well worth the listen.
Here is my take, as the author of The Crucibles Gift: 5 lessons from authentic leaders that thrive in adversity, being authentic is scary, but being an ass and hiding behind authenticity is unnecessary. Especially in the workplace. We as humans work on average 84K hours of our lives, and for a majority of that time we are tying to figure out how to fit into the giant puzzle called life.
So, here is my rule, not hard and fast and more of a guiding principle. Try and stay within 15% of your baseline authenticity. What does that mean? Well, if you are on a journey of self-awareness like many of you in quarantine, you begin to sense when you are most at ease. You learn that your new digital-self is more relaxed, your impression management is less, and you may feel more `zen` like. That is the baseline you are looking for and it will be totally different for all of you. The net result is that you end-up lowering the percent of the time you spend in impression management or surface acting.
So, next time you feel like you are trying to create a partially or completely false narrative for those around you, pause and ask yourself, 'is this the best version of me?' If yes great, if not, recalibrate.
CEO & Co-founder