‘My goal is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better than I used to be.’ – Wayne W. Dyer
At the end of last year I got the chance to speak at a Managing Change conference. And I was delighted to hear from some of the audience that they could tell I have lived and breathed the experiences I talked about. It always makes me smile when people affirm that they see, hear and feel the real me …the authentic Linda.
Authenticity is a bit of a strange word, though. Most definitions I come across don’t seem to nail it.
It’s about being yourself. It’s about believing in something and acting accordingly.
So when I’m asked what I think authentic means my reply is simply along the lines of ‘It’s about really being you. Warts and all.’
Authentic leadership is all about being the person you know in your heart you’re supposed to be. It doesn’t come from your job title or from the size of your salary, or from the number of people who report to you.
Authentic leaders continue to learn throughout their personal and work life. That’s key. They regularly reflect on what is true for them. They check in with themselves to make sure that they are living out their value system, rather than someone else’s.
To do this you’ll need to stop, breathe and take stock.
Reflecting on your explicit values – A trip down memory lane.
When was the last time you took some time to think about your beliefs and values? Getting stuck in the rut of the daily grind at work and at home can cloud your values and beliefs and therefore how you behave in the world.
But they’re just clouded. They haven’t evaporated.
- You’ll need to clear some space in your diary for this. Yes, I know it’s probably full to the brim, but it’ll be worth the effort.
Think about the decisions, turning points, choices, successes and disappointments that you’ve learned from. Focus on all the aspects of your life: your family, friends, spirituality, faith, work…the whole lot.
Spend as much time as you need on this. Work on it and come back to it. The question to ask yourself is ‘What is important to me about…?’
And when you think you’ve got a pretty full picture, take another look to see if any patterns or trends emerge. I’ll bet they do.
And from this you’ll be able to start a list of your own core values that will emerge from this exercise. This reflection can help you gain clarity on what you truly believe and value in life. And that’s the essence of who you are.
Now you just have to live these values!
Courage, mon Brave!
I know that living out your values and beliefs takes courage, and often people are scared to be true to themselves. I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt. But in the end it’s unsustainable. For others, and most importantly, for you.
The longer you work with people, the more they will begin to realise what you really think, feel and believe. Then they’ll begin to notice more and more how that can jar with some of your actions in your role as a leader.
So here’s the key… be your authentic self right now!! If you don’t, you run the risk of people thinking you might be a bit of a phoney. And nobody respects that.
Model the authentic excellence in others
One of the biggest mistakes I observe is the number of ‘leaders’ trying to be someone else.
Now I’m not advocating that you can’t learn from other leaders. In fact, that’s a great thing to do – to try to model their excellence to see if you can draw on a similar process to enable you to become the best leader you can be.
I’m pretty sure you’ll find that the great leaders you admire all live their true values and beliefs in everything they do. They are authentic.
This authenticity leads to respect. And when you have respect you’ll be able to direct, guide and enthuse the people and personalities that you need to.
It boils down to this: You can never be true to the people who matter if you aren’t true to yourself.
Want to find out more?
I’ve synthesised all of my learning and successes in leadership into my book ‘The Barefoot Executive, Leadership Skills for the 21st Century.’
It’s pretty easy to read and has distinct learning and thinking points at the end of each chapter. You can check it out here.
Hope you enjoy it!