We're not middle managers, VPs, or CEOs anymore. We're leaders. We dive into the dark water with grins on our faces, just so our employees feel comfortable getting their toes wet. They're unsure, and they'll get there. But only if we call out their potential and lead with intention.

As a former therapist, I've heard story after story about negative work environments where management on all levels is heavy-handed and prideful--preferring power trips to positive relationships. It's brutal, but it doesn't have to be.

For 40 to 60 hours a week, employees are still humans, with as much natural fear and insecurity as they have talent and learned skill. Relationship and investment are the minerals they need to grow, so why is mindful leadership so rare in the business world?

If you've been blessed with positive leaders in your life, you can instantly identify them. They perceive the gems hidden and unpolished inside of us, refusing to let them go to waste because of our innate misgivings and fear of failure. Leaders call out the purpose they see when the risk is too daunting in our heads. But they never ask us to follow them for their own gain; they ask us to live up to our potential.

This is authentic leadership, and it should be the centerpiece of the way we work. It's being human, and it's not as difficult as our egos would have us believe.

Open the Door. Literally.

Empathy is the major driving force behind gratifying relationships--at work or otherwise. As a CEO and "Empathic Badass," I've learned to literally keep my door open.

By making myself available, I'm creating relationships with my employees where goals are shared naturally. They know me, and I know them. They care for my ambitions, and I care for theirs. They're part of the vision, not a cog in the wheel. And we never dread a Monday. When you remove the mysterious man (or woman) behind the curtain with rules that must be followed blindly, you're left with a team climbing the same mountain together.

This key to positive relationships drives productivity through the roof, but it's not all about the bottom line. It's about souls spending half their waking lives together and finding fulfillment in shared aspirations.

1-Part Authority, 2-Parts Humility.

I wrote recently about how work is becoming more transparent and democratic. Technology is exploding, and creativity is arguably our most precious commodity right now. This is helping me learn that the most empowering leaders exercise "The Final Say" with an open mind to ideas, instead of wielding "The Say" alone like a weapon.

As a result, we've become more intentional about setting time aside to innovate together as a team. Yes, I'm the CEO, but I make mistakes all the time. Self-awareness grows teamwork and mutual respect more than heavy-handedness every time.

If I'm an authentic, humble leader, my employees can contribute without fearing the shaming that comes from insecure leadership. We truly believe we've never had a bad idea as a team, just building blocks for the best ideas.

Pay Ownership Forward.

Ownership is knowing that the outcome of a given project is solely dependent on your efforts and management. You're a leader in your organization at some level, and passing on ownership to your employees is how you'll leave a legacy filled with inspired and confident young leaders.

Account managers experience incredible amounts of fulfillment in their jobs for this very reason. They wooed in the account, cultivated its growth, and got to experience that rare satisfaction of completing something excellent. It's a tangible monument to their abilities, and they're connected to it personally.

In light of this, I'm working every day to structure our organization so our employees own whole projects instead of individual, disconnected tasks. They're growing as leaders and reaping satisfaction from finished products, connectedness to the big picture, and autonomous decision making.

Authentic leaders do more than gather people together for a common vision or cause. They're personalized and discerning, relational and humble. They let us swim in the safety of their wake for a time, but then call out our individual strengths and curiosities to explore deeper waters on our own.

Published on: Sep 16, 2015
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