I was recently speaking to a colleague who worried that if they acted in the way that they were most comfortable they would be less admired. They were concerned that if they said what they honestly felt about a difficult situation the team was facing, they would literally be “booed”. Really? Telling our team members what actions or decisions we would make to empower our team forward would be shunned? I am going to bet that many leaders have had the difficult choice to agree with the way their team wanted to go even though they thought it was a wrong direction or risk sharing an opposing truth.
It can feel scary to be the lonely voice on a team project. One manager I worked with was concerned that if he expressed how disrespectful the other team members were being to one individual, he too would become a scapegoat. Another young leader I coached had great ideas of how to improve a process for both herself and the team. Yet, she wasn’t willing to be vulnerable and risk being ignored.
I have heard quotes like: “Be yourself since everyone else is taken” that ring hollow and do nothing to encourage leaders to be authentic. Perhaps, at the heart of our inability to be authentic is fear. What are leaders fearful of?
- Fear that our suggestions aren’t good enough.
- Fear that we will be rejected by our colleagues.
- Fear that no one is listening.
- Fear that our solution is the wrong one.
What does our authentic self look like? What does it mean to be authentic?
Don’t be afraid to lead with your authentic self because:
1. Our Authentic Self Is A Natural Compass
Being authentic means that we base our decisions and actions on our core values. And by doing that, we will be perceived by others as genuine. When we allow what is important to us to guide our behavior we will never go wrong. For example, if we believe that speaking up to share our perspective is more important than being popular with the team, we will never let ourselves down by remaining silent. If a leader values everyone’s time, they will always be punctual and respectful of not taking up more time than truly necessary.
Authentic leaders allow their core values to be their compass in reaching decisions.
2. Strong Leaders Are Authentic Leaders
A leader that is seen by others as someone worth emulating is an authentic leader. Leaders that always demand to have things their way are not strong leaders but rather bullies. Strong leaders display their authentic selves by:
- Following through on what they say they will do.
- Listening to the suggestions of team members.
- Making honesty an important core value.
- Being fully present.
3. Influential Leaders See Authenticity As Critical
It has often been said that leadership and influence are one in the same thing. Truth be told- one cannot be a leader without being influential. In addition, one cannot be influential without being authentic. Influential leaders need to be visionary and be able to clearly share their direction in an exciting way so others will support them. Keep in mind that a leader doesn’t need a title or a position to be influential. In fact, I have worked with many teams that have members way more influential than the leader with the head title. The reason those team members were more influential was due to their authenticity, ability to galvanize others and enthusiasm.
Influential leaders see authenticity as critical to galvanizing others.
4. Authentic Leadership Is Contagious
When leaders are authentic the people around them will feel empowered to be authentic too. Authenticity is powerful as it allows each of us to be aligned with our values. Authentic leaders don’t need to constantly question how they go about working with others or approaching difficult decisions. They know why they are taking specific steps and feel confident in their actions and behavior. When leaders are authentic:
- Team members joyfully join in and respect authenticity.
- A culture of truth and vulnerability emerge.
- Teams become higher performing.
- Relationship building is paramount with people being at the center of all decisions.
How do you bring your authentic self to your leadership?
Terri Klass is a Leadership Skills Training Consultant, Coach and Speaker who partners with organizations to create cultures of empowerment and build their leadership pipeline. She delivers highly successful leadership workshops and is a speaker and author of articles about leadership.