by Danessa Knaupp
If you’re leading a team, it’s time to get naked.
Before we go any further, let me be clear: being naked at work is a metaphor. Please keep your clothes on.
Getting naked at work means dropping anything and everything you’re doing for the sake of managing impressions, shame, pretense, and anything else that is not related to leading people powerfully forward. It’s the secret to supercharging your leadership effectiveness and taking your team’s performance to the next level.
That said, “being naked” at work and leading authentically is easier said than done, so let’s break down how to bring out that side of you and apply it in a way that gets results.
What It Means to Get Naked
First and foremost, getting naked means trusting that you are good enough to lead. If you’re an executive, you must have earned that level of responsibility, right?
You are there for a reason, and your leadership experiences up until now, including your mistakes and your failures, have prepared you exactly for this. Trust that you can access the full breadth of your learning to support your team. You can tap into the power of your failures to drive innovation and share your mistakes to foster connections.
Getting naked is about being human. It’s about inviting others into their full selves by being your full self. The naked leader understands what she’s good at and what she’s still learning. She allows space for exploring failure, shame, and story.
The naked leader is focused fully on the challenge ahead, not distracted by interference. She no longer invests time or energy into managing shame or other distracting emotions. The naked leader accepts herself fully and, in doing so, opens the door for the team to accept themselves and others fully.
Why You Should Lead Authentically
At this point you might be wondering, is being naked at work really the better way? Or am I setting myself up for failure?
In my experience as an executive coach, getting naked at work yields better results from employees and is worth the associated risks that come with opening yourself up emotionally. Leading authentically and being human at work isn’t for the sake of being liked or getting high scores on an employee survey. It is about developing high-performing teams and delivering powerful results.
Research supports the case for authentic leadership. A 2015 study published by Dr. Biplab Datta in the International Journal of Leadership Studies concluded that authentic leaders are better than their colleagues across the dimensions of both managerial and leadership effectiveness. Managerial effectiveness is about getting things done, leadership effectiveness is about enabling long-term strategy and inspiring others.
It may feel like opening the door to humanity and vulnerability will muck up production at work. It may feel like it will take the team’s eye off the ball and divert focus and attention from core, necessary deliverables. And I might agree with you if it weren’t for one thing.
Humanity and vulnerability are already well established on your team and in your workplace. Each person at work carries the same heavy load of assessments, narratives, and failures that you do. That baggage is already affecting their ability to perform. You just haven’t seen it up until now.
How to Be an Authentic Leader
You now know what being naked at work means and why you should aim for it. Next, let’s examine how you can inject authenticity into your leadership presence.
Dr. Fred Walumbwa is one of the most influential leadership experts of the last two decades. In 2008, he worked with colleagues to define and study the components of authentic leadership worldwide. His work found four key characteristics:
- Self-Awareness: Authentic leaders understand their strengths, weaknesses, and experiences. They know what is important to them and can articulate those values.
- Relational Transparency: Honesty and clear communication are required to lead authentically. Leaders who play politics or violate trust aren’t viewed as authentic.
- Balanced Processing: Authentic leaders can see the full picture. Seeing the full picture entails asking for a variety of opinions, understanding all available data, and exploring possibilities.
- Internalized Moral Perspective: Knowing and leading with what is ethically right and fair is a key part of authenticity.
By prioritizing each of the four key characteristics defined above, your interactions with employees will be more authentic and, in turn, inspire better performance.
At its core, authenticity is about knowing yourself, owning yourself, and acting in a way that aligns with your values and principles. An authentic leader shows up as her full self and devotes her attention to the team and task at hand rather than managing to external expectations.
Authenticity is owning the truth about where you are, without interference from shame or hubris. Authenticity is connecting in a real, human way with other people at work and using that connection to drive results. Authenticity is stripping away the armor and getting naked at work.
For more advice on leading authentically, you can find Naked at Work on Amazon.
Danessa is an executive coach, CEO, and keynote speaker shifting the global conversation on leadership. She has coached hundreds of executives across every major industry and has developed a reputation as a candid, compassionate and courageous leadership partner. She is the author of the leadership manual, Naked at Work: A Leader’s Guide to Fearless Authenticity and regularly addresses C-suite audiences on how to harness the power of real authenticity (not #authenticity) to drive measurable business results. Danessa earned her executive coaching credentials from Georgetown University, is credentialed by the International Coach Federation, and holds and a BA in Psychology and Sociology from the College of William and Mary. She spent more than 20 years as an entrepreneur and a senior executive and ultimately, CEO before founding her coaching practice.