Authentic leadership? “no problem with a loose screw”

Authentic leaders create an atmosphere of transparency, trust and security. The fact that they have shortages here and there and that there may be a loose screw’ can even be an advantage. And it is their right anyway.

Peter Tuybens, Director Acerta Consult, often works with leaders and studies leadership. To him, a leader is a person who can give direction and get his team to a certain goal. He takes his people with him in such a way that they all get energy from it: ‘There are countless definitions, but this is my preferred description. A leader must take people in the right direction, because no one can do anything on his own”.

A good leader not only gives employees energy, but at the same time his or her leadership does not cost team members energy. This is important to keep people on board. It can fail if leaders are just rolled up in their assignment. “I see that regularly. People have often not asked for this role and are often relieved that they have been relieved of the assignment“.

The mirror to authenticity

For the director of Acerta Consult, a leader needs to know himself very well. For Peter, everything starts with authenticity. A leader has to be real, playing a role is worth less and people can’t keep up with that: “Playing a role often takes energy. The ideal context is one in which the leader gets energy from leading. That radiates and has an enthusiastic and inspiring effect on the environment”.

Tuybens believes that managers should share their leadership transparently in their team: “If, for example, they are very results-oriented, they should dare to say so. He must indicate that he does not want that characteristic to demotivate others. Then he is vulnerable. It is that vulnerability that helps him to remain authentic’.

Although authenticity is not a binary fact. “You can’t either be authentic or not be authentic. Sometimes you find yourself in a context in which you are asked to show discipline or willpower. That doesn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of your individuality. Just then showing transparency is strong”.

A loose screw

Authenticity is therefore not a quantifiable or even definable concept. But Peter Tuybens is in favour of leaders striving for it, because employees appreciate it: “People appreciate leaders ‘whit a loose screw’. You share your shortcomings – which you can rest assured – with your team. You ask your colleagues to understand you better and help you with your weird sides. You invite them to do the same. You may indicate in an open and constructive spirit that you do not have a monopoly on the truth and do not know everything”.

A leader cannot do it alone in times of rapid change. The leader needs an environment of trust. That trust is absolutely necessary to achieve results and achieve goals, as Tuybens testifies: “Where everyone is vulnerable, a sense of security is created. It doesn’t work without it. Where there is a low sense of security, managers become compulsive. But no one likes to work that way”.

Talent Motivation Analysis

An executive is responsible for the talent with which he is allowed to deal. Peter  has been working very intensively with Talent Motivation Analysis (TMA) for about five years and strongly believes in the added value of this method. The method maps people’s motivations. He assumes that you should not only work on those things for which you have less talent. The focus should mainly be on developing someone’s strengths.

The director gives the example of a CFO.  “A CFO is expected to be able to focus on details, but that person may also need variety. There are few, if any, people who have both of these talents to a high degree. With a CFO who needs variety and is less In keeping focus, you can fulfil his need for variation by, for example, involving him more in strategic exercises. This is better than developing him further in the area of focus, because the latter can be a lost effort.  That is why it is better to have this CFO assisted by someone who can be very focused”.

Gap thinking

The example shows that gap-thinking is outdated, says the director. It is pointless to keep working on weaknesses. The focus should be on someone’s strengths: ‘We used to look at what could be improved. You obviously have to get a minimum level for every competency needed in a position. But if the talent of a leader in a specific domain is limited, he must organise himself in such a way that others in the team excel in those competencies in which the manager is less strong. That is the philosophy of TMA. There is consensus that a leader can’t know everything. A generation ago, that was a bad leader. Now, the idea is that the leader can manage his or her environment, as long as his or her own weaknesses do not harm the organization. In other words: you have to deal with “the loose screw” in such a way that the obstacles or shortcomings you encounter in yourself are compensated by the positive levers in others’.

Importance of the organisation

A manager can be expected to develop the talents entrusted to him. He must always act in the interests of the organisation: ‘If you have a talented employee, you may not keep them in the interests of yourself in your own team. I sometimes see that in organisations. But something like that never lasts long. People who get the feeling that their wings are being cut tend to run away. If you have talents in your team, keep it transparent. Provide replacements on time and give the talent other opportunities, for the benefit of the entire organization”.

Finally, a tip for every company. “Where you want to create an atmosphere of trust, transparency and safety, the management committee should set an example. If those characteristics do not apply to a management team, then you mortgage the results of this desire in the rest of the organisation“. (Patrick Verhoest)