One of the key foci I have identified as my coaching purpose is AUTHENTICITY. I have valued and sought to grow in authenticity throughout my working life, and now I hope to help others discover and develop this treasure.
But what is authenticity in leadership? I recently re-read an article I'd saved from Dan Rockwell's excellent blog Leadership Freak where Dan interviewed Karissa Thacker about her book "The Art of Authenticity". With credit to them for some of the wording, here's my take on Authenticity:
First: Know who you are.
Self-awareness is the heart of authentic leadership. This is why I teach and recommend the LIFE Languages™ profile. Until I know how I am wired, I can't be true to who I am. Thacker says "Authentic leaders practice habitual reflection on personal strengths, passions, motivations, and values". The insights a LIFE Languages profile offers will show you that in some ways you are just like many other people, and in other ways you are completely unique! That's what I love about this tool: it doesn't box you in. Although self-awareness is the heart of authenticity, it is not the whole picture.
After discovering yourself, the second step of authenticity is to Let yourself be seen.
Too often leaders resort to hidden agendas, or manipulation, or even backstabbing, to reach a goal. These tactics leave you guessing where the leader is coming from, or what is coming next. But these are not compatible with authenticity. Instead, an authentic leader will have the courage and confidence to let herself be seen; meaning that she is clear with others about her intentions, motivations, and beliefs (often the very things she has clarified in the self-awareness step). Holding back the truth is often excused as consideration for others, when it is really fear. You can be considerate in the way you communicate the truth of your position, but hiding it is not consideration.
A natural sequel to being seen is to Engage with others. every self-aware, self-disclosing leader will focus these strengths on engaging with others. This means actively seeking opposing views, considering a range of perspectives, and the options they offer, then acting consciously and purposefully on the outcomes this process delivers. Impulsivity is not an option for an authentic leader. As Thacker's book puts it: "You need to be on the lookout for a brilliant antagonist or three for every team".
And finally, authenticity is completed when you Follow Your Heart. This means you live out your values in your own actions, the directions in which you lead, and the ways you treat others.
As Dan Rockwell wrote to summarize the article: "Authentic leaders embody their values."
I hope I'm more authentic today than I have been in the past. No more pretending or unpredictable leadership! How about you? Which of these four steps can you take today to increase your authenticity?