Fighting for Authenticity – Keeping it Real in Leadership
Leadership requires authenticity. To lead, as if you are somebody else, will only harm us in the long run. Why? Because people will eventually see through our own façade in attempting to be someone that we are not. It is challenging for people to follow leaders who do not know themselves and/or leaders who cannot embrace their own person. Let’s face it: if you can’t be honest with yourself, how can you expect people to trust you with anything else you do?
We live in a world where airbrushed versions of leadership are in abundance. And you know what? People are tired of all the gimmicks. People don’t want perfect, prim, and proper leaders. Rather, people want (and need) leaders that are able to uphold character, integrity, and strength – when times are good and especially when times are bad. To put it simply, people are demanding more and more authentic leaders.
Showing us our authentic selves is an internal battle we deal with every day. While it can be difficult, we must challenge ourselves to fight for authenticity in the way we lead ourselves and others. So, what can we do to make sure we are keeping it real when it comes to our own leadership? Here are three leadership tips for anyone wanting to practice authentic leadership in their everyday lives.
Practice Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection
Authentic leaders are self-aware. It does not mean that we have everything all figured out. After all, leadership is a journey of continuous self-discovery and self-improvement. It is a slow process of getting to know ourselves better. By practising self-awareness, we formulate a good understanding of where we stand when it comes to our personal values and beliefs.
Part of growing self-awareness is the willingness to look internally and reflect on our own behaviours. When we allow ourselves to look inward, we better understand how our own actions and thoughts affect us and affect the people around us. A good exercise we can do is reflecting on how our day went at the end of the day by asking ourselves the question: am I proud of the way I acted throughout the day? If we can say yes, that means the way we acted closely corresponded with our core values and beliefs. If we say no, it can be a learning opportunity to find out why not and if we could do anything differently next time. By practising self-awareness and self-reflection, we can over time, get better at aligning our actions with our personal values.
Accept Yourself and Have the Courage to Show Up as You Are
Authentic leadership is about embracing ourselves and having the courage to show up as our true selves. For most people, doing this can be very difficult. When we go against the beat of our own drum, it is often due to fear. This fear comes in many shapes and forms: we are fearful of being negatively perceived by our peers, we don’t want to draw unwanted attention to ourselves, or we are scared of being rejected. While succumbing to our fears might be the easier path at the moment, burying our authentic selves can become damaging to us in the long run.
When we trade our authentic self for the short-sighted false sense of security of being accepted, we begin to slowly lose ourselves again and again. This can become a vicious cycle that we can stay locked into if we are not careful. However, if we are practicing self-awareness and self-reflection, we can catch ourselves in the act and create an opportunity to break away from this negative habit. We can formulate strategies that address our fears and make peace with accepting (and loving) ourselves.
Genuinely Get to Know Others While Sharing Our Authentic Self
Authentic leaders take a genuine interest in people and create healthy work cultures. When we take the time to get to know our peers, we contribute to building trust and creating a space that is open and honest. A key way of being genuine is by being actively present and by listening with intent when conversing with the other person. While it might seem obvious, it can be difficult for many when put to practice. Asking questions, nodding, and freeing ourselves from distractions are examples of habits we can do to let the person we are speaking with know that was are fully engaged in getting to know them.
Sharing our own authentic self is also important in keeping it real in leadership. When we open ourselves up to others, we allow others to see who we are deep inside. Giving people a window to our authentic selves does a wonderful thing for both ourselves and the person we are speaking with – it gives us permission to shine our light while also giving the other person permission to do the same. To build trust as a leader, there must be genuine reciprocity between both parties.
Bringing it All Together
In summary, we are often in an internal struggle of revealing our true selves to other people. Oftentimes, we think that we are better off pretending to be someone else we think people want us to be. However, this does more harm to us than good in the long run. Instead, we can incorporate key habits to make sure we are showing our authentic selves each day such as practising self-awareness, accepting ourselves, and genuinely getting to know others. Truly, a leader does not need to be perfect – just authentic.