Leading Admirably, Leading with Authenticity
A leadership trait I tend to admire and encourage is authenticity because it seems to be so rare. Most often, it feels easier to hide behind whatever cover we have created, although it is comfortable, it is not really all that rewarding. If you are wondering whether you agree… ask yourself: Do I value others more for how honest they are or how they appear?
Let me clarify. When I speak of honesty, I am not suggesting leaders run around like crazy in chaos – no, no, no. That would be a lack of emotional intelligence, which you will never find me recommending. My definition and use of honesty include these capabilities:
- A level of directness that is candid and comfortable.
- A professional degree of disclosure about things that matter.
- Feedback that is meaningful, actionable, and thoughtful.
- The ability to express one’s thoughts, without losing control or being fake.
- A willingness to discuss uncomfortable topics that are business critical.
- An altruistic view of others, a servant leadership focus not a self-focused approach.
THE VALUE OF AUTHENTICITY
When you are working for someone that is always real with you, what is that like? There is likely to be a level of unpredictability given you know they will shoot it to you straight, but you cannot always know what that will look like. However, I am assuming something else accompanies that ambiguity… assurance. If you know you work for someone who will not sugar coat – there is a level of comfort knowing that however uncomfortable the message, you will get it straight from the source. You will not need to worry about hearing it from someone else or leaving the conversation confused… you will know what you need to know.
I think we can all agree, that is extremely important. There are enough misunderstandings that happen unintentionally, the more we can minimize intentional misinterpretations – the better.
If we want to grow as leaders or employees, we must be willing to have hard conversations. Part of that process includes authenticity. Look at it this way. Let us say you pot a plant. If you hydrate it with coffee rather than water, the plant is going to know the difference, and cannot 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 or her emotions and opinions in a real way without being too fake or too fragile.
Pulling It All Together
Author Bob Terry said, “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 is not over, you still must respond accurately, authentically, and appropriately to the people you work with. So, ask yourself these 3 questions to become the authentic leader your team can grow to admire.
- What am I doing that feels contrary to who I am?
- Think, what part of myself and my experience would my team benefit from knowing?
- What is one thing I can do now that will help me to show more of my true colors to my team?
Above all, as you are on your own adventure toward authenticity, be professional – always. It is the path of greatness.
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Thank you for reminding me to be real as I continue to grow as a leader. Authenticity is so hard to find in people nowadays, let alone leaders. It’s so much easier to “fake it to make it” like some will say. I truly believe that authenticity helps people to follow leaders.