How would you answer the question: Do most leaders lead with true authenticity? Sadly, if you're like my MBA students, the majority of you will likely vote no. You'd share stories of strategic ambiguity, or leaders letting greed and stock price trump once solid values. One student shared, "I honestly think most leaders start out being authentic, but after a while with all the pressures it's just too hard to maintain." When everyone's playing a guarded game, it's hard to win if you're the only one playing the vulnerability card. Easier to blend in and go with the flow.
So, what if I changed the question just slightly and asked: Do YOU lead with true authenticity? I imagine the percentages would shift in the favor of yes. But if we're honest with ourselves, for most of us the true answer is "unless."
- Unless the other guy's playing games
- Unless I have to salute and tow the company line
- Unless we have to make our fourth quarter earnings
- Unless the truth will lead to employee disengagement
- Unless my boss is around
Most of us don't get up in the morning looking to fake it. Authenticity breeches are seldom blatant acts of self-betrayal, but more likely minor shades of grey which we convince ourselves (often unconsciously) are okay.
What does it mean to be truly authentic? I've been asking that question of everyone I meet lately Most definitions involve the word "being:" being genuine, being consistent, being transparent, being trustworthy. Being is such a richer word than doing.
Authenticity stems from who you are which manifests in what you do.
5 Ways to Lead More Authentically
Know Yourself: Be constantly curious about your leadership and the impact you are making, both good and bad. Have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. Don't pretend to be someone you are not. Admit your weaknesses and how you are working to improve on them
Be Yourself : Be true to your leadership values and style. Avoid emulating someone else's style to fit a certain mold. Strive for integration and consistency of who you are across various contexts (e.g. work, home, church)
Say What's True: Be trustworthy and honest. Do what you say. Don't withhold information. Be willing to have the tough conversations.
Commit to the Cause: Be committed to the mission at a deep level. If your heart's not in it, consider your motives. Doing what's right trumps any personal agenda.
Connect With Others: Be genuinely interested in other people as humans, not just for what they can do to make your life easier. Make extra effort to connect at a deeper level up, down and sideways.
Your Turn: What does it mean to be truly authentic?
Karin Hurt is the CEO of Let's Grow Leaders, an award winning experienced former Fortune 15 executive, speaker and writer, college professor, and author of "Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss" as well as her latest read, "Parent's Guide to Leadership" How to Inspire Leadership in Younger Children."