It’s what you feel when people are being true to who they are yet, it’s not always easy to see in a leader. Authenticity. During a humanitarian crisis around the globe that continues to unfold, the spotlight has been on leaders. Not in hope that they have all the answers, but instead we looked to those leaders who were leading us authentically.

The political arena is a perfect example of appointed leaders showing the world how they lead, making promises (or not) and yet, you know when one of those leaders isn’t being authentic. When their direction seems rooted in ulterior motives and not in the best interest of all. 

It’s what sets those leaders apart the world adores, from those we can’t wait to see leave.

As a collective, we have an unspoken expectation of those leading us to be authentic when our social, economic and welfare are at stake. 

Why would we expect anything less of leaders in the business landscape?

The pandemic challenged businesses to grow, contract and expand again in new ways. It illuminated what kind of leaders we need for the future of work where uncertainty is up ahead, and a multi-generational workforce continues to populate the business landscape.

This is where authenticity comes into play. Traditional leadership tactics or strategies won’t hold rank above leaders who come with more heart, more authenticity and lead with a more compassionate approach. The latter inspires people.

People aren’t inspired by a leader pretending to be someone they’re not and are looking for leaders to be human, honest, transparent and real. It’s what allows them to be more connected to their customers, foster higher employee engagement and drives performance.

This doesn’t take away from being wise and timely in your decision-making.

Being strategic and innovative.

Making tough decisions even when people are at stake.

It’s a balance. Authentic leaders lead in such a way where their authenticity doesn’t take away from doing their job. These are the leaders that can weather the storm, manage competing priorities that come up while balancing it all with emotional intelligence as they’re leading others. 

This will inevitably change how executives and leaders are hired in the future of work, which will also challenge the recruitment process when interviewing for such skills.

Gartner’s research shows the vast majority of IT and business leaders say the most important skills needed in 10 years are soft skills and the pandemic reinforced this as we saw an opportunity in leadership amongst businesses and on the world stage. 

Skills like empathy, sensitivity and communication, to name a few, will be top priorities as we look to what kind of leaders will be required in the future of work. 

In working with a client recently, he shared he wanted to focus on being more authentic as he works towards a promotional opportunity he’d like to step into. He said, “I made mistakes earlier in my career being too caught up with my team and others liking me and it didn’t help me in being the leader that helped develop my team in the way I wanted to.

I admired him for being honest and transparent on what he felt were mistakes in his career. I asked him what lessons and learnings he gathered from his prior leadership experience. The biggest one was, “To be more of me and not hold back so much.”

No matter where you are on the leadership scale, there’s always time to decide to be more of who you are and less of someone you’re not.

There’s often this tango dance, between how much leaders feel they should share, vs. how much to keep close to the chest. The key to connecting with others is less about how much you share and more that you DO share. So others can relate to you. So they see more of your human side, your ability to be open and transparent.

Being authentic is a choice that asks you to be more of who you already are and bring ALL of that to your role. It asks that you embody your whole self where all areas of your life experience you as the same person.

This won’t come easy to you if you’re hiding behind a false idea of what you think leaders should act like.

The most effective leaders dedicate time to their self-development (what I also like to call leadership development as being the Director of your life first 😉). It shows in the way they lead and relates to others.

If you’ve struggled with being authentic in the way you lead, I invite you to look at what you’re doing to invest in your own self-development. Getting to a level that allows others and you to show up with more of you doesn’t happen overnight but with time, is evident when you put in the work to developing yourself! 

One thing you can start doing today: 

Self-reflect. Put pen to paper and answer the following questions:

What kind of leader am I and, am I consistently showing up as that version of myself?

If not, what’s getting in the way of being more of who I imagine myself to be?

What needs to shift for me to be more of who I am as a leader? What beliefs or ideas do I hold that don’t serve the kind of leader I want to be?

If I am showing up as the authentic version of who I am, how can I inspire others to be more of who they are?

Self-awareness is key to making any real, sustainable change. As the Director of your life first, do yourself the honour, to show others who you are, as the authentic leader the world needs more of.

In the comments, I’d love to know. If you’re holding back for whatever reason, what’s one, small thing you can do today to show those around you more of who you are? What would you share, say or show them?

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