Maybe it is all the political wrangling that is going on in Washington these days, or perhaps it is just the recent interactions I have had with executive types in the workplace. Still, I can’t help but notice a lack of authenticity among leaders. Of course, seeing this deficiency in others is easy; recognizing it in ourselves is the problem.
What is an Authentic Leader?
One of my favorite definitions of authenticity was offered by author and speaker Dr. Lance Secretan when he said, “Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet – thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.” The alignment he mentions is about who you are compared to what you present to others. Are you the same person in both cases?
Authentic leaders are aware of their strengths, their weaknesses, and their emotions. They don’t hide their mistakes or shortcomings out of fear of looking weak. They are not proving themselves to people; they are improving people.
The 4 Skills of Authenticity
Dr. Phil said, “Your authentic self is who you are when you have no fear of judgment or before the world starts pushing you around and telling you who you’re supposed to be. Your fictional self is who you are when you have a social mask on to please everyone else. Give yourself permission to be your authentic self.”
“Giving yourself permission” is more about embracing your authentic self than developing some new character quality.
Here are four steps you can take to set a strategy for finding your authentic self:
1. Be Values-Driven – Do you have a clear vision of what you stand for and to whom you are accountable? In today’s world, it is easy to develop circumstantial values where the personal values you display are driven by the circumstances where you find yourself. Authentic people know who they are and exhibit the same values in every situation.
Review a list of core values and select 3-5 that you live your life by. You can find a list HERE.
2. Be Self-aware – Do your words match your actions? Does your audio line up with your video? Become aware of how your thoughts, words, and actions line up in every situation you face and make a note of what changes need to occur for you to be in total alignment. What is your effect on other people? What is it like to be led by you? Self-aware leaders develop trust with those around them.
3. Be Respected versus Liked – do your behavior choices occur because you are trying to please others or please yourself? Are you trying to be liked or be respected? Shakespeare said it best, “To thine own self be true.” Exhibiting wisdom and courage are critical characteristics of people who chose respect over being liked.
4. Be Real – Being real means avoiding the strong desire to embellish or enhance your abilities and accomplishments to be accepted or liked. By using the three most underused words in leadership, “I don’t know,” you open the door for others to contribute and allow you to remain true to who you are.
There is a quiet humility surrounding authentic people—they know who they are and are comfortable with themselves and what they stand for. Authentic leaders are consistent in good times and bad. Because of their consistency, leaders generate trust with their team and others in their circle of influence.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.