Seven Ways to Be More Authentic as a Leader
“Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
You’ve spent a good deal of time and energy working with your team to craft a vision and set of supporting values and long range strategic goals. Now comes the time to release your creation to the world. So you call your communications director, and tell her you want to develop, with her help, a strategic communications program aimed at firing up the troops and developing a fully aligned organization. She’s ready and able to help.
The first draft of a communications program that she produces leaves you feeling uneasy. While the program has all the essential ingredients and what appears to be the right mix of media, it really doesn’t get it right when it comes to portraying you as you really are. It doesn’t have your voice. Instead, it comes across as “corporate speak”. You feel that you are at risk of coming across as inauthentic, a fake.
Most leaders reach this point at some stage in their careers. In a sincere effort to inject some energy and enthusiasm into their strategic initiatives, they cross the line from being who they really are to being inauthentic. What’s more, when it happens, they feel it in their gut. And if they feel it, the chances are others will too.
The solution to this is to fully embrace who you are and to communicate accordingly. This involves disclosing stuff about yourself — your dreams, goals, beliefs, values, strengths, weaknesses, fears and biases. I’m not suggesting that you create a bulleted list of these, merely that you let them show in a variety of ways through your written and spoken communication.
That’s when you show just how human you are. And when you show that, you will attract many more followers to your story than any “corporate speak” could have achieved, and you’ll feel all the better for it.
The Authenticity Test
So, try this authenticity test next time you are about to publish a communications piece or talk about your mission, vision, values and strategy:
- If you communicate this to the person closest to you, would they roll their eyes or smile and tell you it’s perfect because it’s exactly you?
- What’s your biggest personal fear as you roll out your vision and strategy? How vulnerable do you personally feel?
- What personal strengths do you bring to the table to support the attainment of the vision and strategies?
- Where are you personally weak, and who will you lean on for help in these weak areas?
- What are your personal beliefs and values that will support you and your organization in the days, months and years ahead?
- What are your hopes and dreams for the people who will join you on this journey?
- What are you holding back on revealing to others that you feel might reflect badly on you?
That should be enough to get you thinking. Above all, try to seek a balance between being strong and being humble.
About the Author
Brian Ward is co-founder and CEO of Affinity Consulting and Training. He is the author of Lead People…Manage Things: Master the Five Key Facets of High Performance Leadership. He is also the founder of The Management4M, an educational and training site for new supervisors and managers, and those who wish to fill in the gaps in their management and leadership competencies.