“No man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
There are dozens of leadership buzz words that show up in books, in webinars, wherever any kind of discussion of leaders and what they do is happening. Some of the buzz words have become somewhat meaningless due to overuse, and some didn’t have much meaning to begin with. Some, though, still carry a message that’s worth thinking about.
The one that struck me today was “authenticity”. There are quite a few people in the world today who are significantly adding to their personal wealth by talking about authenticity. The idea of authentic leadership isn’t new – the book by that title is almost twenty years old. But it’s still something to consider as a leader.
In case you missed it, the main idea is this: Authentic leaders know who they are, and they live who they are, and they win people’s trust be being who they are. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not. They don’t try to be something because they think other people expect them to be that something. They’re typically motivated by some larger purpose (besides ego), and they usually think about longer-term, sustainable success.
That all sounds like pretty good stuff. Be authentic with yourself for a moment: Do those kinds of statements describe you? Are you ‘being you’ on a daily basis? I’ve had conversations with a number of leaders who have said they feel like an actor in a play. They feel like as a leader they’re supposed to do this or that, or they’re supposed to say this or that, and so they do it. But their heart’s not really in it.
Are you being the leader you believe you should be? Or are you being the leader you think everybody else thinks you should be? Not only is it impossible to fake it forever without compromising yourself, it’s also exhausting. Being a leader is really hard. You’re going to feel exhausted at times even if you’re being authentic. How much more exhausting is it to have to fake it every day?
When you are having a leadership-type conversation, or doing some kind of leadership-type action, slow yourself down and think. Ask yourself what you really believe needs to be said or done. Ask yourself what you really feel. Ask yourself what you really want to achieve in a given situation. And then act on it.
The best thing about being authentic is you can start doing it any time. What are you waiting for?