“How desperately difficult it is to be honest with oneself. It is much easier to be honest with other people.” – Edward F. Benson
To be authentic is defined by dictionary.com to be trustworthy, honest, genuine, real. It is a particular way of dealing with the external world, while being faithful to our internal selves and our ideas rather than external influences and ideas.
The word originated in the early 1300’s from the Latin autheniticus meaning “one who does things him(her)self”.
Some of my work involves coaching emerging leaders. These are leaders who are new to their specific leadership position and the primary work with these leaders is to help them find their own leadership style while being fully authentic. Being real.
According to Eric Fromm, behavior is considered to be authentic if it results from a personal understanding of its drives and origins, rather than merely from conformity with the perceived wisdom of the society.
It’s not easy being authentic in today’s world. It is a difficult state to achieve due to the social pressures that surround us to “fit in”, “be like…” and “live like…”.
Not being authentic means projecting a persona that conflicts with your values and true character. This is like putting on an actor’s mask and playing a different character than the one that is truly you. It shows up in your not saying what you feel. You may project a “know it all” persona, while in reality you need to learn so much more. You may have a continuously reproachful air when you really have a soft disposition. You may be a leader who believes in showing no emotions when you really have a tender and kind heart. There are numerous ways we mask our authenticity.
What a tragedy to live behind this type of mask. We can go through our entire life not knowing we wear a mask, or fearful of removing it as people will see the true person behind it.
Authenticity requires continuous self-exploration and self-knowledge. This is a life long process as we are always changing. This self-exploration alters our relationships with other people. People like us to stay the way we are. Changing is hard, but once we begin the self-exploration, there is no going back to being inauthentic.
The most dynamic leaders we have are those who lead by their core values and make known who they want to be in the world and what legacy they want to leave. This type of leader is consistent in their behavior regardless of what situation they find themselves in.
You may get people to respond to a request (especially if their pay is involved); but only when you establish deep, human, emotional connections with people will they go out of their way to accomplish the difficult tasks needed to get exceptional results. If you’re not authentic, you’re less likely to establish those connections.
Authenticity is a state of being. You can’t fake it and don’t ever try to. People will know.
“To contact the deeper truth of who we are, we must engage in some activity or practice that questions what we assume to be true about ourselves.” – A. H. Almaas
Here are a few questions to reflect on when taking a look at how you are being authentic:
Who was your childhood hero and why? What qualities of your hero do want to, or do, emulate?
Who had the greatest impact on you as a leader and in what ways?
What past mistakes have impacted you for the better as a leader?
What do you most want to be remembered for as a leader?
What is the legacy you want to leave?
What advice could you most use right now as a leader?
When is leadership fun for you?
What was your very first leadership experience?
What skills are you still using that you learned from this experience?
I’m not talking about anything new here. Authenticity has been a source of leadership throughout history. Socrates stated, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” A Roman statesman once said, “A good speech is a good man speaking well,” meaning that the audience needs to perceive the speaker as authentic.
The art of leadership is the art of simply being you. Communicate your authenticity with passion in all situations and it will bring you many rewards throughout your career and your life.
“We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.” – Barbara de Angelis
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