What is authenticity and why is it important to leadership?
Leadership isn't something we do in response to our circumstances. It's a way of being. You don't DO leadership. You ARE a leader. Leadership comes from within. It is an ongoing and consistent expression of who we are that inspires others to action. Authentic leaders know themselves and their purpose; they use that knowledge as their internal compass. When we align our actions with our sense of purpose, we act authentically; we take a stand, living centered, calm, powerful lives. We are in control of our feelings and emotions, rather than letting them control us.
Authenticity is about having personal integrity, being genuine, and acting in a way that is true to yourself and your beliefs, no matter what. It's about NOT putting up a facade, NOT being aloof or inaccessible.
Our sense of another's authenticity has an enormous impact on whether or not we trust them, how comfortable we are with them, and how willing we are to follow them. Authenticity, then, is critical to effective leadership.
Doing vs. being
Some corporate executives are motivated primarily by money, earning six- and seven-figure incomes. Others are motivated by "the game", by winning, and besting others who may be competing for limited corporate resources needed to implement their plans. Typically, these executives reach a place where they burn out, or become increasingly dissatisfied by their day-to-day routines. As a result, their teams suffer and are not as productive, or effective, as they could be.
The best leaders are guided by a deeper purpose - to create a product or service, for example, that delights their customers, or leaves a mark on the world in some way that is meaningful to them. When authentic leaders do this well, they can sustain success and the seven-figure income, along with a genuine feeling of accomplishment, of having made a significant contribution.
When we clarify our true purpose, we come to understand what gives meaning to the things we do. Our purpose gives us guidance on how to do things. For example, my purpose is to live powerfully, contribute to the creation of powerful lives, and connect communities of people. I've chosen to do this through my career as a Leadership Development Specialist and Executive Coach. My purpose doesn't dictate my profession or what I do. I could live purposefully in many others roles: I could have chosen to teach or to be a leader in a corporate setting. My purpose guides how I do what I've chosen to do. And it shows up outside of work, also, in how I contribute in my community, behave in my family, and so on. It is my internal compass.
When I start playing small (holding back and not being powerful), or when I'm being stingy with my time and talents, I can feel it in my body. I feel uncentered, uncomfortable, and unfulfilled. I'm at my best when I am being myself, connecting members of my various networks, and inspiring and supporting others to be their best. It's from this place of purpose that I do my best work.
Of course, living on purpose means that you may not 'fit' or be successful or happy in every setting. But that's OK. You will be most successful and make the greatest contribution in the place where you can be your fully genuine, purposeful, authentic, wonderful self.
So, how do you become an authentic leader?
1. Know the leader you want to be. Clarify your purpose. Create a vision for yourself as an authentic leader. Identify your deepest values. Think about leaders you admire. What is it about them you want to emulate? What is the legacy you want to leave? Picture how it looks and feels to be being the best, most authentic leader you can be.
2. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Especially in this fast paced, global, technological world, we can't be experts in everything. Nor do we necessarily want or have time to be. Be honest about what you can do well and enjoy doing and what is best left to others.
3. Identify the gaps between your vision and current reality. Determine which gaps you want to close by learning and growing your own expertise and which ones you want to fill with the talents of others.
4. Identify sources and opportunities for development. Pursue them with a beginner's mind. Enjoy the learning process.
5. When making decisions or engaged in discussions, ask yourself, "What does my authentic self tell me to do?" Even if it is a difficult decision, check in with yourself and ask, "How can I make and communicate it in a way that is an expression of my purpose and in integrity with my values?"
6. As you begin to use newly learned behaviors, be generous and forgiving with yourself. The leader who can forgive him/herself can forgive others.
7. Create visual cues to remind yourself to be your newly discovered real self when self-doubt begins to creep in. Post-it notes, special screen savers, mantras, a rubber band around your wrist, or New Leaf Touchstone bracelets or pocket stones can help.
About the Author:
Cindy Loughran is a certified professional coach and the founder and president of New Leaf Touchstone. Her products and services help people break out of their habitual patterns and make desired changes in order to turn over a new leaf and create a fulfilling and satisfying life. http://www.newleaftouchstone.com
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