It seems like being yourself should be the easiest thing in the world to do, but it is often the most difficult for people, especially in leadership. Pretending to be someone different than yourself often feels safe, it protects you from being exposed, from the possibility that people will not like you, but it can be draining – isolating.
As a leader, it can often feel necessary to play a part outside of yourself, to keep anyone from seeing that you might not have all of the answers. Being vulnerable, honest, transparent does not make you less of a leader, but rather shows strength in your ability to overcome and persevere even when adversity stood in your way. People want to know your truth. It is not a sign of weakness sharing that it took failure, hard work, and persistence to get to where you are now – it’s a strength!
Instead of worrying about what others think, it is time to start getting real about who you are. It isn’t going to be easy – it will be work. It is going to take deep self-reflection, learning what your values are and how to live them, and it is going to take courage to stay true to who you are, even when you are staring adversity in the face.
So now that we know the effect of authenticity, how do we become authentic leaders?
Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Recognizing what you are good at and what you need to work on are the first steps on the road to authentic leadership. There are certain things you are inherently good at and others that do not come as easy. Once you can differentiate between the two, you can use them to your advantage – yes, even your weaknesses. Using your strengths and weaknesses as teachable moments gives both you and your team confidence in open-communication. When you better understand what your flaws are you are better able to accept feedback. We are all in a perpetual state of learning, so as you are teaching your team, why not learn alongside them and become a better team together.
Ask For Feedback
Asking for feedback – from colleagues, friends, family, even strangers –helps us to understand how we are showing up. It is easy to look in the mirror and think we are putting our authentic self out there, but those closest to you are going to know if you are phoning it in whereas colleagues and strangers can sense whether or not they trust you.
Beyond asking for feedback, it is even more important to take the input and put it to work for you – grow from it.
Practice Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence begins with self-awareness. When you start to understand how your emotions affect your behavior, you can more effectively manage your emotions. In better managing your emotional reactions, you will begin making better decisions and building stronger relationships. Becoming more in-tune with your emotions puts you at an advantage for identifying and understanding others and their emotions.
Understanding ourselves and living more authentically is transformative work, but the trust, respect, and devotion earned from being authentic make the work well worth it.
“First ask yourself: what is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.” -Dale Carnegie