Is being an authentic leader really that easy?



Authenticity is the word of the moment when it comes to leadership, and for good reason.  We are becoming clearer on the fact that there seems to be no ‘one size fits all’ when trying to inspire followership in organisations or endeavours and it is only in understanding and embracing your true self can you really build the deep trust you need in order to lead for the long term.  People look to be led by those they trust and what they trust is someone who is themselves, not someone trying to be an imitation of someone else, even if that someone else is a very good role model.

I come across many articles, training programmes and books espousing the benefits of authentic leadership along with tips as to how to achieve it.  Usually it is shares a process exploring your values and then helps form a guiding statement that can help guide your behaviours.  But I think they often miss a key fact, which is that one of the uncomfortable truths about being an authentic leader is that the real battle to authenticity is a psychological one.

Authenticity, if you were to truly achieve it, means that when people judge you, which they will, they will be judging YOU, not just a façade you create to make it through the day at work, or a role you carry out in order to justify your salary but your true self.   That is a huge step to take and one, which at its heart, imposes a real level of vulnerability.  Perhaps there in lies the magic and trust which is created when people are authentic, a willingness to be vulnerable in front of those they lead and also why it appears so rare in leaders.  To be brave enough to make your true self-vulnerable is a pretty scary idea for most people.

You need a thick skin and to at least started to make a level of peace with who you are and what you believe, warts and all.  That level of bravery only usually comes once you have wrestled the tensions of your personality and settle with the fact that not everyone will like you.  This isn’t to say that you set out to be disliked, but set out realising that not everyone will be your biggest fan and being OK with that.

For every follower, you will have a critic. So is it worth it?  Absolutely. To start on the journey to truly explore who you are is not just a great leadership ambition but one at the heart of living a happy and fulfilled in life.  So be brave, forgive yourself of your imperfections and take the time to reflect on who you really are, what you really want, and how you want to go about getting it.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”.

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Ingenious Performance is a small organisation with a big impact.  We are specialists in high performance workplace behaviour and are passionate about delivering extraordinary results for our clients.  We believe that talent is overrated and ordinary people mastering exceptional things are what drive organisational success.

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