In Bill George's classic book True North, he says authenticity should be the foundation for one's leadership style.

But here is where it gets sketchy. While being who you are and saying what you think may be deemed as authentic, it can get you into deep trouble if the 'real you' is a jerk.

"It's just how I roll," I'll hear often from some of my clients. When I coach them to display authenticity--to show their humanity--what I'm really asking them to do is to bring out their best selves, which may not necessarily mean what feels most natural to them

I challenge them to stop doing things their way and embrace doing what's unnatural and uncomfortable for a change. This forces them to take a long hard look at their "authentic" selves -- who they really are, and what they're creating.

Many begin to understand that their natural tendencies, in all their glory, are not the formula for leadership success.

By developing self-awareness that goes outside of your "natural tendencies" to be authentic, you may dramatically shift in a positive direction.

The results of displaying the best of human nature, instead of what feels 'most natural.'

1. Develop trust: When you speak the truth, you're true to yourself. Do it consistently, and you begin to trust your own decisions, especially as someone who has the best interest of those around you. Then other people will trust you too, and you'll command their respect.

2. Increase integrity: Show me an authentic person, I'll show you a person of integrity. This person doesn't hesitate to do the right thing (even when nobody is looking, as the saying goes). To work with or under someone like this means to never have to second-guess their motives; who they are, what they do, and what they believe in are all aligned to serve the interests of the whole team, the organization, and the mission.

3. Solve problems head-on: A leader who is authentic is honest. I'm not talking about telling a co-worker that his lime-green tie is ugly. I'm saying that when you're emotionally honest with yourself and others, you have the courage to be open and direct enough to deal with issues quickly instead of procrastinating, delegating it away, or just plain ignoring the problem.

4. Realize their potential: Authentic leaders reach the top of the pyramid because they're able to trust themselves to do what they know is right. By following their internal moral compass and not caving in to the opinions of others, they control their destiny. They know who they are; they know where they're headed.

5. Boost self-esteem: Trusting themselves to make the right choices leads to higher self-confidence and self-esteem; authentic leaders see the glass as half-full, which leads to frequent joy and vitality along the journey.

6. Decreased stress: Let me ask you a question: if you lived a life true to yourself and your word, spoke what you meant, and expressed your values and beliefs (walked the talk) daily, how would that make you feel? Probably way less stressed, I imagine, and maybe you would even garner more self-respect. Truth is, being authentic is far less stressful than being someone you're not.

Bringing it home.

A great starting point to get some traction here is to find out how you seem to others. Ask someone you can trust what is hard about working, collaborating, and doing business with you. Then listen, and listen some more without interrupting, justifying, or defending. It's going to be hard, I know! And I urge you, please, the next time you feel the impulse to go about your natural 'authentic' self, what will you do instead?

Published on: Nov 11, 2016
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