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Authentic Leadership in Today’s World

Interview with Tara Charvat, Managing Partner at Tara Charvat Consulting & Coaching

I recently read a great article on authentic leadership and the fact that the idea of authenticity can be a foreign concept when it comes to people in executive roles. This article points out that authentic leaders:

  1. Are self-aware and genuine

  2. Are mission driven and focused on results

  3. Lead with their heart

  4. Focus on the long-term

And when it comes to demonstrating this in real life, Tara Charvat does just that – and more. So let’s break it down.

Authentic Leaders are Self-Aware and Genuine

What you see is what you get with Tara. And that comes from years of building up her leadership style – starting as a medical writer at a large pharmaceutical company, dipping her toe into marketing at the same organization, diving into account management and marketing strategy at several large healthcare Publicis agencies, and then taking on substantial marketing and commercial leadership roles at 2 start-up organizations in the healthcare space for double-digit years. Learning and growing and adapting along the way, Tara says “my style is about being very authentic. If somebody is going out to dinner with me, or if somebody is sitting in the office working on a presentation with me, they are going to get the exact same person. This establishes trust – which most people need to work for someone they can trust, see somebody who they can connect with and feel safe with.” Tara believes that we all have to live up to our own authentic styles to garner that sense of trust – and appreciates that everyone has a different sense of self that should come uniquely through. “Listen to what the needs of your team are and how you can help them to really start to frame up the best way that you can show up in the organization. As a leader, people are going to look up to you so you have to really manage how you show up.” And rather than have a different persona in the office vs out – just be your true authentic self and create that connection with your team.

And managing how you show up works hand in hand with authenticity and self-awareness. Certainly, there is the balance of soft skills and hard skills to consider here - including when to be assertive, passionate, supportive, listening vs speaking, etc. “You start to identify patterns as you build an awareness in yourself. Leadership is about self-awareness, so at first identify the pattern, become aware of your actions or emotions, and then ask, “Is this really how I want to show up”, and consider how best to enhance or change it?”

They are Mission Driven and Focused on Results

And Tara knows how to get things done – especially considering her extremely successful career path. But more than that, Tara learned along the way that good leadership is about sharing your mission or vision with others – not just about doing the task or checking the item off the list – but really painting the picture and supporting the team to bring the idea to life.

“In one of my first leadership roles, I was much more passive and received great counsel that has stuck with me to this day 'we need to have you be the one who steps up and says this is what we’re doing and then we can all figure out how we do it. But we really need that vision from you.' This was a pivotal moment in my leadership pathway.”

Tara believes in collaboration and gaining buy-in from the team, but knows that as the leader you have to be the one defining the mission and vision and create clarity so that people can effectively buy in, take responsibility for their work and follow through.

Authentic Leaders Lead with Their Heart

Tara is a nurturing and collaborative leader – and believes that even though she is a leader at work, that it’s all about individual connections and establishing a sense of belonging. “Everyone on my team is my family.” For Tara, just by being on her team means that you are family – and she believes that her family needs to be happy and that comes through empathy and trust.

Tara works tirelessly to make sure that everyone on her team is successful and is in the right position – a role which focuses on their strengths – to lead to overall business success. She believes that “if you create an environment that’s trusted and that people feel they can truly be themselves and truly get their needs met, and are valued for the work they do that they are, by default, going to work above and beyond to successfully get the job done. People know that I would bend over backwards for them and in turn will do it for me too. It creates an environment of safety and trust which are core human emotions and needs.”

Tara regularly channels Richard Branson’s mantra of “Happy employees equal happy customers”. She knows that by meeting those core human emotions and needs that her team will be more motivated and will work to deliver exceptional results.

Authentic Leaders Focus on the Long-term

For Tara, the long-game is really about optimizing her team’s performance and personal growth and development. She understands that leadership needs to be about authenticity AND adaptability and meeting your team where they are at today – and supporting them to get to where they want to be.

In a prior role, Tara “had thirteen people reporting to me at one point and you know person A to person B were completely different. And so, I had to learn to work within their styles and tweak my style for each of them to perform the best they could. As a leader I think that we have to adapt and be able to work with our teams to bring the best out of them, which ultimately is going to be the best for the organization.” For Tara, this is all about observing your team, learning their needs, asking questions, listening and adjusting accordingly. For example, she had an employee who was very intelligent and a great collaborator but took constructive criticism too personally and it got in her way to be successful. Tara worked to ensure that comments were delivered in a much softer way. Another employee was really organized and detail-oriented, but was not able to free form, so Tara adjusted to give her the questions and topics in advance.

By being able to adjust and balance out your team’s needs, they are able to “rise to the top and you get the best things that they all offer separately, and together you get this product that is exceptional because you’re utilizing the best of each of their skills.”

This long-game is also why Tara has moved away from corporate marketing and into her own consulting and coaching business. She believes that these skills are a huge part of leadership – which are not regularly taught – and is now able to parlay them to broader organizations and support extending others leadership abilities.

For Tara, being an authentic leader – a blend of heart, openness, support, collaboration, creating vision, and self-awareness – can be distilled down to a simple quote “Being authentically true to who you are is far easier and delivers much more than trying to be someone you are not.”

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