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’ve created, although it’s comfortable, it’s not really all that rewarding. If you’re wondering whether or not 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’m 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 includes these capabilities:
- 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 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, not a self-focused approach.
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… assurance. If you know you work for someone who won’t sugar coat – there is a level of comfort knowing that however uncomfortable the message, you’ll get it straight from the source. You won’t need to worry about hearing it from someone else or leaving the conversation confused… you’ll know what you need to know.
I think we can all agree, that’s 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 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 coffee 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 or her emotions and opinions in a real way without being too fake or too fragile.
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 isn’t 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 actually am?
- 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?
Remember, above all, as you’re on your own adventure toward authenticity, be professional – always. It’s the path of greatness.
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