Episode 5: Authenticity

In this series, we're focusing on nourishing a culture of leadership by applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this episode, we're exploring the principle of authenticity. Authenticity requires leaders to be in their personal integrity, consistently, in dealing with others. This builds trust and respect. If you are not authentically in your personal integrity, people will not trust you. Learn more about strengthening your authenticity in this week's episode.

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Leadership Development Focus: Authenticity

You may be asking what authenticity has to do with leadership development?’  We offer you the opportunity to consider skillfulness in your authenticity as important in your leadership development.  Thank you for making use of this opportunity. Our intention is to support you in developing your leadership.

To get started on this topic of authenticity, we offer a definition of authenticity: to be authentic is to be true to oneself. This is not about occasionally being true to yourself but maintaining the discipline of consistently being true to yourself.  By being true to yourself, you can be true to everyone you have relationships with.

The state of authenticity is important to consider when engaging in leadership. The state of authenticity is to deal with reality as it is, instead of as you wish it to be.  People can have a tendency to engage with life as though it is the life they wish it to be, instead of engaging with the reality of their lives. They can then be blindsided they have to face the reality of their lives and discover that the way that they thought things were different from the way they are.

Authenticity, being authentic, and being in a state of authenticity has implications for every part of our lives. Let us look at leadership from two different lenses, the first being leadership over one’s own life, the second having a leadership role in a group of some kind. Now think about staying in one’s authenticity for both of these aspects of leadership.

Authenticity requires leaders to be in their personal integrity, consistently, in dealing with others. This builds trust and respect. If you are not authentically in your personal integrity, people will not trust you.

We have heard from a number of people that if they dare to be authentic, and in their personal integrity, they fear not being liked. Too often, people in leadership abandon their authenticity in the hope of being liked. The outcome of this is that people do not trust the leader who abandons his/her integrity.  Even if people don’t like you, if you are engaged in leadership with authenticity, they will trust and respect you because they can count on you to:

  • tell them the truth
  • do what is right

This is more valuable than being liked. Leaders and whole organizations are challenged to create trust and it often eludes them. We are saying that consistent authenticity on the part of those engaged in leadership is the central cornerstone for trust to flourish. When the leader is authentic, co-workers have the opportunity to be authentic. They are more likely to be honest back with the leader if the leader is honest with them.  This creates the conditions to resolve issues and to work things out without blame, shame or guilt. For example, if something didn’t work, it becomes possible to simply say it didn’t work.

Developing Your Capacity for Leadership with Authenticity

A critical ingredient in understanding your integrity, your authenticity is to understand how you define yourself. We offer some simple steps to follow to develop your understanding of how you define yourself. These steps will get you on your way in developing your capacity for leadership with authenticity. Keep at this simple exercise as you strengthen your sense of how you perceive yourself.

  1. Every morning immediately after waking up, write down a list of whatever comes to you as you finish the sentence ‘I am…’.You might say things like ‘I am witty’, ‘I am courageous’, ‘I am intense’. After you finish your list, reflect about what you have written. Does it seem true to you, to who you are, to your integrity?
  2. As you go through the day, keep track of what you are saying after you begin a sentence with ‘I am…’ You are likely to be surprised how many times a day you begin a sentence or phrase with ‘I am’. You are likely to be even more surprised by what you say after ‘I am…’ and thus how you are defining yourself through the day. Examples that are often surprising are ‘I am tired’, ‘I am angry’, ‘I am disappointed’. Don’t judge what you are discovering, just write down what you say whenever you start with ‘I am’.
  3. At the end of the day, reflect in your journal the similarities and differences between your morning writing and what you stated during the day about yourself when you said ‘I am…’. Reflect and journal about what you are noticing about how you define yourself. What insights are you having?
  4. You are now ready to track your daily behavior and communication in relation to who you believe yourself to be. Catch yourself if you find yourself speaking and acting in ways that are out of the integrity of who you are. If you believe yourself to be a calm person, it is clear when you say ‘I am calm’ and it is not clear when you say ‘I am angry’. This could be replaced by ‘I am calm’ and ‘at this moment, I feel angry’. The ‘I am’ phrase begins a defining phrase. The ‘I feel’ phrase is simply an expression of how you are feeling in a moment, it is not a phrase that defines you. You are likely to find that your words of expressing who you are differs from the morning version when you are well rested, to the version that comes out through the day as you are getting stressed. Pay attention to how you are defining yourself throughout the day.

Through this simple four step exercise, you start to understand who you believe yourself to be, you develop the ability to be ‘gut-level’ honest with yourself about your reality as it is.

Strengthening Your Capacity for Leadership with Authenticity

As you go through each day, it takes discipline to pay attention to how you are defining who you believe yourself to be, and also who you are committed to becoming as you develop yourself.  If you notice yourself staying true to who you believe yourself to be, find ways to congratulate yourself for staying in your authenticity. Celebrate. If you notice that you are behaving in ways that don’t feel like your authentic self, for example losing your temper at someone, take the time to make it right. If you have lost your temper or otherwise acted outside of who you believe yourself to be, speak up, apologize.

Celebrate your accomplishments, own up to the times that you feel you are falling short of expressing your authentic self.

If you find yourself falling short of expressing your authentic self, it is important not to judge yourself. It is not the time for the self-critic to show up. Ideally, you can approach any shortcoming from a viewpoint of being gentle with yourself, of saying to yourself, ‘oh my, that is interesting’ and then taking appropriate action if needed such as an apology. It is not useful to judge any shortfalls as ‘bad’. You are simply in a process of developing yourself and developing your capacity for leadership with authenticity.  It will take practice.

If it makes sense to you, add growing your capacity with authenticity into your personal leadership development plan.

About the Developing Leadership Series

We work the Genuine Contact way, nourishing a culture of leadership, applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this learning series, Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership. We'll be inviting you to consider your own experiences in life and business so far, and how you want to further your leadership development with this theme.

In this series, our intention is to offer you unique opportunities to continually develop your leadership. By developing your leadership you expand your potential. Your life changes and you gain greater insights and capacity for leading your life. Your leadership of your team, organization, congregation, and even your family brings about possibility thinking, transcending ordinary thinking and ordinary results.

In each episode, we will be exploring one key principle. You will hear our own experiences and understanding of each of these timeless principles.  We'll suggest simple activities you can do to develop your own leadership by working with these principles too. Subscribe to receive future episodes by email.

Rachel Bolton
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We specialize in developing leaders, teams, and organizations for the new leadership paradigm of "leading so people will lead". In this series, our Dalar team of Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership.
Rachel Bolton
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