3 Signs of Genuine Leadership

Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 16:50

Guest post by Suzanne Waldron

According to a recent survey by Direct Health Solutions, the cost of absenteeism to the Australian economy now exceeds $32.5 billion per annum in payroll and lost productivity costs. Medibank Private estimates that 34% of that is caused by stress or depression.

Lately, the buzzword “employee engagement” has complicated a well-meaning concept as many organisations struggle to define what this actually means to them and what they need to motivate their workforce.

However, as Google’s Project Artistotle recently revealed, the secret to creating high performing workplaces is not that secret or complicated at all – employees simply want to be around nice people and permission to be themselves. They want to feel “psychologically safe” at work, where they can be open, honest and take risks without fear of recrimination.

Could it be that simple?

I believe the answer is yes, and it begins with meaningful conversations and interactions with our managers and leaders.

So what makes a genuine leader?


During a workshop designed to encourage a newly assembled senior leadership team to learn more about each other, I watched the General Manager explain his roller coaster ride of emotions during an intense period of global restructure. It was an honest, personal recount of the recent difficult times and the audience – his new leadership team – responded with relief, great respect and trust.

Remember: No one wants to put on a “work face” when they get to the office. A genuine leader is not afraid to share an authentic account of all parts of the story. By sharing emotion and a balanced view of reality when addressing others, it creates belief, connection, respect and a higher sense of certainty.

Say what you mean

Working with a client in a mentoring mode recently, we talked about solutions to engage managing up. I offered a suggestion of asking her own manager what they thought about the situation – it hadn’t even occurred to her to do so! Sometimes we miss the very obvious out of fear of being too harsh or too direct.

RememberIt’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it. Saying what you mean needs context, framing, appropriate language and diplomacy. Our inability to talk straight costs us time, energy, money and morale in the workplace.

A strength based approach

Workplaces (and society for that matter) are full of humans desperately trying to fit in. As a result, they don’t take stock of their true abilities or positive character traits and fail to use their strengths to their advantage.

Leaders who take a strength-based approach to their teams, will help eliminate imposter syndrome by identifying and leveraging the strength of each individual. A recent Gallup study revealed that employees who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged than those who do not. 

Remember: When employees know and use their strengths, the effect on individuals, teams, and organisational performance is spectacular.


Genuine managers actively listen to others, act with integrity, connect with their team members and most of all, take the time to define their own intentions and character in the workplace. After all, genuine self equals genuine leadership. There simply isn’t time for anything else.

About Suzanne Waldron

Suzanne Waldron is a behavioural change specialist and speaker focussing on genuine leadership. She is also author of A Flourishing Mind.  Learn more at: www.suzannewaldron.com