When we seek authentic purposeful voices in our leadership we gain so much as a result. We build trust, we harmonise with others, we feel like we belong, and share a purpose.
You also increase your ability to be engaged in life when you align your personal values with a more authentic version of who you are. You start having more moments of joy and happiness, resulting in more contentment and more productivity.
When I first became a leader I struggled to be authentic. As a team member I could fly under the radar, and keep to myself. Yet as a leader I needed to show up. I worked with senior people in a big organisations, and I was frequently the youngest, and the only woman in the room. I wore dull, dark clothes, and tried to fit in. My opinion was hidden in workplace politics and legislative compliance. Being an introvert, I struggled big time.
I spent the first 35 years of my life trying to live up to the expectations of others, to push boundaries by being someone else, and trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. I morphed into someone else, and only let the real me be seen when I was out in private settings. Even at work gatherings I became this noisier version of myself.
I struggled and pushed myself relentlessly through careers that weren’t aligned with my natural strengths. I did that because I thought it would win me the approval I desperately craved. I wasn’t being honest to myself.
I was totally inauthentic, and it was draining and hard work. Trying to be someone else takes a lot of energy, in all areas of your life, including your well-being. Sadly this approach didn’t exactly help me forge deep connections with other people.
Every time I put on an aura of having it all together, I was cheating myself. As my reality was I was feeling vulnerable and scared, I was putting on a mask.
I wasn’t being an authentic leader. In fact, I had no idea who I was. Every time I accepted a job that I didn’t want, I was cheating myself. I did the job because I thought that was what others wanted, but not me. I was trying to be liked, and I was suffering.
Then having left the male dominated industry I started my own business and it was through the business coaching that I decided enough was enough. I learnt through building my business, the one thing that stood out for me, was building a better ME would help my business. I committed to stop hiding under a bushel, and show the world my true self.
I started to wear brighter colours, and after some years I started to colour my hair – well you can see the effect that has had!
It meant speaking up about my own views when appropriate and having the courage to challenge others respectfully when I disagreed. It meant having the courage to express ‘the real me’ through my work, appearance, activities, home design and all other aspect of life that expressed me.
One of the most powerful things you can do in business is to embrace who you are and be 100% real and authentic.
When you are an authentic leader you feel more
- Supported by colleagues
It’s your greatest point of difference and it’s what makes you unique, because after all no one can be you.
Authenticity is the accumulation of daily choices to show up and be yourself, fully and truly.
Whilst I was hesitant to make changes years ago for fear of what others would say, when I did change, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Now that I am no longer motivated by the approval of others, I am finally free to express myself freely and unapologetically.
I feel lighter and more true to myself. I have deeper relationships, because it’s as if a veil has been lifted, and the people around me get to see who I really am. I have more contentment and more productivity. And at work, instead of making others uncomfortable, being more authentic allowed me to build deeper connections. It has made all the difference in my life and created a richer, happier, more fulfilling existence.
So don’t just take my story as a reason to change. Numerous studies have shown how beneficial it can be. In a study done in 2021 by Simmons Leadership showed that over 90% of respondents agreed that authenticity in the workplace is important.
If you are struggling to let your authentic-self shine, here are some tips you might find useful.
- Cultivate Genuine Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is the first and most critical step for embracing authenticity as your way of life. It is the ability to see yourself clearly, to understand who you are, how others see you, and how you fit into the world. It sounds easy, yet it takes time and effort to realise just what you do, how your body responds, and what you say. It’s the conscious knowledge of your own personality, character, feelings, and individuality.
- Start small.
Commit to taking small steps toward being more authentic. Undertake one small step each week, or month. It’s a process. Ask for something you want. Speak up about things you normally wouldn’t. Assert yourself, or wear something bright.
- Check in with yourself.
A laying of being self-ware is knowing that your true feelings, thoughts and desires are there, it’s just that maybe they’ve been hidden for so long, that now you can say “come out”. To encourage them to come out, journal and meditate to get back in touch with yourself. Allow yourself to feel your emotions, and be curious about them. Ask; What are they telling you that you need to do? How can you become more of your true self?
- Don’t use authenticity as an excuse for bad behaviour.
You can be authentic and kind at the same time. Be respectful when building relationships. The more authentic you are, the more authentic others will feel they can be around you as well. As a result, you’ll cultivate more meaningful friendships – rather than having friends of convenience, you’ll forge intimate, lasting networks.
- Don’t overshare.
There is a line between oversharing and transparency, and it needs to be tread carefully. Being truthful and actively sharing information (openness + transparency) are central to the notion of authenticity. Yet if you end up confusing openness with venting and ranting, you’ll drive people away without ever really knowing why.
- Bettering your leadership
When you make a concerted effort to act in the way you want to be treated, and act concurrently with what you claim to be your belief system, your employees will feel more comfortable around you. You will show them your vulnerability, and that you do as you say you’ll do. This in itself will create psychological safety in your team.
- Celebrate Who You Are
When you cultivate genuine self-awareness and love, it feels natural to want to celebrate who you are. When you’re living authentically, you’re not only at peace with yourself, but you actively celebrate your uniqueness, your positive qualities, your flaws, your ‘perfect imperfection.’
Being aware of your blind spots and understanding them is the first step in being able to transform them. And they’re called blind spots for a reason – we can’t see them. So we need others to help bring them into our awareness. That’s why 360-Degree Reviews are so powerful in the workplace, and why we need to request honest feedback from others about ourselves.
The magic happens outside of your comfort zone. Be prepared to get uncomfortable if you’re serious about being authentic.
When you’re willing to passionately and boldly show up and express your true self, you will share your true ideas and beliefs, and then you will tap into your authentic power. You will become an inspiration and a positive role model to those around you. You’ll share with others who may also be longing to express themselves more freely, ways to be authentic.
Remember being authentic means there will always be people who appreciate what you have to say, and there will always be some who dislike it – and that’s OK. We don’t want everybody to like what we say – that would be boring.
Transformational leadership means being yourself, and building trust through a co-created reality. That is what authentic leaders look like.