Developing a deep respect for others and learning to embrace diverse perspectives is critical to building inclusive cultures that drive strong results. But one of the first steps in that process is knowing who you are so you can lead as your authentic self. That starts with challenging your own beliefs and determining your personal definition of success. “An authentic and functional approach to leadership builds on the two key pillars of knowing yourself and creating an ongoing practice of learning and inclusion,” explains Pamay Bassey, Chief Learning and Diversity Officer with Kraft Heinz Company.
Even people who intentionally set out to become senior leaders do not always think through the kind
of leader they want to be. Or realize it’s a choice. We sometimes just slide into adopting the behaviors and mindsets of other leaders we’ve observed. “Spending the time to develop a strong sense of personal awareness is important as you determine the kind of leader you can be and want to be,” advised Chief Learning and Diversity Officer with Kraft Heinz Company, Pamay Bassey, addressing executives at the 2021 WFF Leadership Conference.
Knowing yourself is the starting point for developing what she calls an authentic and functional approach to leadership. That process also opens the door to respect for others and working to build an inclusive culture where everyone can perform to their best. Bassey suggests starting your journey to authentic leadership by focusing on the “Three Cs.”
CHALLENGE yourself to determine what you believe
When you explore what makes you tick, what drives you and what you actually believe, the answers can be surprising and enlightening. When you understand your core values you can determine how you want to use them to lead. Bassey suggests a step-by-step process of:
- Getting out of your comfort zone
- Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes
- Listening deeply
- Reflecting on what you learn
- Refining your belief structures and connecting them to your core values
When Bassey experienced an especially difficult year personally with the loss of numerous loved ones, she embarked on what she describes as a “transformative journey where I had the opportunity to see myself reflected in as many mirrors as I was willing to look into.” She found her time of adversity, much like the pandemic we have all experienced, to be an especially good catalyst for provoking significant action and change.
Her journey included a commitment to visit a different place of worship every week for a year. “The process kept forcing me to ask what I believe, what I don’t believe and what drives me,” she said. “It also provided a lot of practice in understanding other people and what drives them. First-hand experience challenging your own beliefs helps you learn how to hold your own values close while respecting other people’s rights to do the same,” she said.
CREATE your definition of success
Too often, we let other people define our success by looking at the outer attributes and trappings of our achievements and concluding that we have “made it.” But the more meaningful exercise is to look inward and ask if you are living a life that represents success to you. Bassey suggests sitting quietly and exploring these questions.
- What have you always wanted to be when you grow up?
- What motivates you?
- How important is money? Is it a motivator for you? If it was before, is it still now?
- How important is it to have great experiences, family and friends?
- Do you want time to give back to others?
- Who depends on you and how can you balance their needs with yours?
- Is there someone further along in their life or professional journey who embodies what success means to you who you could learn from?
“It’s a lot easier to hit a target if you know what you’re aiming for,” she added. “Knowing what success means to you will help you navigate toward it.”
COMMIT to a learning, leadership and inclusion practice
When you learn how
to learn and create an ongoing commitment to learning, you unleash a critical power that applies in all aspects of life. That requires constantly asking yourself what new skills or knowledge you need to navigate toward your next step and then being willing to allow your learning to change how you lead.
“An ongoing learning practice transforms something that is new and potentially uncomfortable into a trusty toolset you can use to tackle challenges today or apply to whatever challenge comes next,” Bassey said.
By embracing a willingness to challenge your own beliefs, create a personal definition of success and commit to ongoing learning that alters your leadership, you can show up as both your authentic self and an authentic leader.