When leading others, there is a personality trait I tend to advocate that others try to adapt…authenticity. Most of the time, it feels much easier to hide behind whatever cover we’ve created, but although it’s comfortable, it’s rarely what’s best. If you’re wondering whether or not you agree…ask yourself: Do I value others more for their honesty or how they appear?
Now, before I continue, let me clarify. When I say honesty, I’m not advocating that leaders run around like crazy during times of chaos, just because they feel like they’re going crazy – no, no, no. That would be a lack of emotional intelligence, which you will never find me recommending. My definition and use of honesty includes these strengths:
- A level of directness that’s candid and comfortable.
- A professional degree of disclosure about things that matter.
- Feedback that’s meaningful, actionable and thoughtful.
- The ability to display one’s humanity in balance, without losing control or being fake.
- A willingness to discuss uncomfortable topics that are business critical.
THE VALUE OF AUTHENTICITY
When you’re working for someone that’s always real with you, what’s that like? There’s likely to be a level of unpredictability given you know they’ll shoot it to you straight, but you can’t always know what that will look like. However, I’m assuming something else accompanies that ambiguity…and that’s assurance. If you know you work for someone who won’t sugar coat, cut corners to get to the point or talk behind your back, hoping you hear it – there is a level of comfort knowing that however uncomfortable the message, you’ll get it straight from the source.
That’s important, and we all know it.
If we want to grow as leaders or team members, we have to be willing to have hard conversations. Part of that process includes authenticity. Look at it this way. Let’s say you pot a plant. If you hydrate it with soda rather than water, the plant is going to know the difference, and can’t grow until you give it what it needs. To establish roots, the plant must receive the right water, in the right dose, at the right time. The same is true of a great leader…a leader must be able to handle his/her emotions in a real way without being too fake or too fragile.
As Bob Terry states, “Leadership depends on an ability to call forth authentic action in response to the issues it identifies.” If you recognize the issue accurately, your job isn’t over, it’s now time to respond accurately, authentically and appropriately. So, ask yourself these 3 questions to become the authentic leader your team can grow to admire.
- What am I currently doing that feels very contrary to who I actually am?
- What parts of myself and my experience am I afraid to show my team?
- What is one thing I can do this week that will help me to show more of my true colors to my team?
Remember – during your adventure to authenticity – be professional, always.