Time to get real.....
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Be You.....Be Authentic
Being authentic should be simple, so simple in fact, that we all should be living this way naturally every day. So why is that some people need to be reminded to be authentic when leading others?
In its purest form, authenticity is being genuine to your true self. It is being fully self-aware, truly understanding yourself, having a clear perception of your emotions.
Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:
· What makes you tick?
· What are your core values?
· Where do your greatest strengths and talents lie?
· Can you recognize your weaknesses and blind-spots?
· What motivates you to want to be your best self?
· What do you feel has the capacity to crush your soul?
· What inspires you?
· What deflates you?
· What makes you truly happy?
· What makes you feel miserable?
· What is your “Why?”
Can you answer these easily? Do you understand them, and know how to work with them? Are you open about discussing them? Are they apparent in your work-life?
Holding that mirror up isn't always easy; acknowledging your flaws, weaknesses and imperfections, as well as knowing what makes you strong, gifted, talented and unique. To truly be authentic, you must be aware and accept all aspects, of your personality…. of you, the way you think and why you act/react the way you do - the good, the bad and the downright ugly. You are then able to leverage your skills to the best of their abilities in any given situation and can be proactive in how to deal with any weaker aspects or blind-spots, that may come into play, jeopardizing your plans.
I’ve never been one for pretentions, I would rather be upfront about some of my many flaws and foibles, get them out in front of people, so they may understand why I may be anxious or concerned - to let them know that I have my challenges too. Now, this does not mean I show up to meetings or presentations and let everyone know my life’s story (although I have been told I’ve had an interesting life so far– but more on that at a later date :o), or that I will dive into what upsets me, annoys me, concerns me or scares me. Depending on who I’m speaking with though, it can be extremely helpful in giving people a little bit of a sense of who I am, the authentic me. This is also a great time to show how you genuinely enjoy working with people, supporting them and inspiring them….all of which will come across if you are just being you.
Here’s an example I often use when speaking with a group for the first time:
After introducing myself, I often then mention that I should come with a “warning label” or a “disclosure” that makes them aware that Yes, I’m really from Scotland, and apologize for my rather peculiar accent, that at times, can be difficult to understand, particularly when I’m passionate about the subject I’m speaking about, as I then speak even faster! So, if anyone needs me to slow down or be more clear, they can just let me know. I’ve also been known to unwittingly throw in a “Y’All” or two into my sentences, as I have lived in North Carolina for 8 years…but no need to worry, that’s as Southern as I get.
This serves a couple of purposes – As I can be very conscious of my strong Scottish accent, it gets it out there, and knowing that people are aware of the origins of my accent, make me more relaxed and confident. It creates a potential bonding moment, where people can see that I’m genuinely concerned that my accent may affect how my message is received, and that I want to do what I can, to mitigate this happening. It also shows that I’m not afraid to admit, what I see as one of my personal challenges. I’ve also been known to mention my rather control freaky nature that I try to keep in check, my sometimes apparent OCD tendencies, my challenger type personality, my innate need to solve problems, and how I’ve learned to deal with being an introvert, often in the spotlight, which certainly isn’t a natural setting for an introvert. All of which are true and genuine behaviors/traits inherent to me, that I’ve needed to adapt and learn how to deal with. By being honest about aspects of me, that are not always visible, but may show up at any time (usually unannounced), I can begin creating an element of trust.
Another critical factor of self-awareness, particularly in leadership, is being cognizant and understanding of the effect you have on others around you. The way you “show up” to people you work with, is incredibly important. You must be aware of the perception you are creating to those you interact with every day.
These can include:
· Your body language
· Your pattern of speech
· Your eye contact
· Your openness to dialogue/others’ opinions
· How your mood affects you
· How you treat others, the respect you show
· How fair you appear to be
· How strong/confident a leader you appear to be
As humans, we use all our senses to form our opinion of each other, which is probably one of the reasons my parents always said that “You should always try to make your best first impression….just be you” I don’t recall them ever having to tell me that I needed to be genuine…..it was implied and just expected that I would.
I remember at one point wearing jeans and a college sweatshirt into work on a “Dress down Friday” …. yes, I am old enough to recall when that was a rarity and considered a perk in some jobs! The rumor of the day was, that it was cool that I wore jeans just like they did. I was still new to the organization, I knew no-one, had moved my family to a new country, and was heading up a group of people that I was hoping to transform into a great team. I remember thinking, apart from the ones I had met during my interviews, most of these people knew absolutely nothing about me, where I came from, what roles I had previously held, what my passions and interests were both at work and in my home life and what on earth made me the type of person they should trust to head up their group. All they knew were that I was a small woman with a strange accent, wore the proverbial little black work dress every day, and was about to change their work world!
I decided to hold a “town hall” type meeting, that the entire group would attend, and spend a little time on a presentation, called “All About Me”. It wasn’t too lengthy and was easy to compile as the data/photos were at my fingertips, but it was enough information to give an overview of who I was, both inside and outside of my work environment (which was, in essence, exactly the same person) - The experience I had gained working in both clinical and business environments, elements that made up my leadership style, my core values, my hometown, my family, my love of my horses etc.– I introduced the whole me, not just the new boss that had moved into the corner office.
The presentation was a great success – It proved to be a phenomenal foundational step towards a strong, trusting relationship with my team, one grounded in authenticity.
Someone once told me “Leadership is acting” - pretending you know everything, have all the answers and are in control at all times……. Really??? I don’t think so...
I have yet to come across anyone who knows everything, has all the answers and is in control all the time (apart from possibly my Mom!)
You can't pretend to be an Authentic Leader - this type of leadership requires a certain amount of vulnerability, transparency, bravery and a huge dose of honesty and integrity.
I’m happy to say, I’m always me – what you see is what you get, with the same core values, the same quirky personality and character traits and flaws. I’m far from perfect, and, like everyone else on our little blue planet – can make mistakes, but the person that shows up to the people I work with, is the same person all the time, not someone acting the part of a leader…. just me, an authentic leader.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.....part 3 of this "Time to let go" series coming soon!