The best leaders aren't just intelligent, self-aware, and highly motivated. While they may be all of those things, they're also authentic--the type of person that naturally attracts the trust and support of others. 

In this case, the type of leadership I'm discussing isn't limited to a role or title, but more importantly, is a reflection of the people themselves. Because natural leadership ability comes in all shapes and sizes, and, truth be told, needs to be present at all levels of an organization for that company to sustain success. 

No, the type of leaders I'm talking about aren't your typical Instagram influencers, your YouTube personalities, or someone with an impressive title, they are the type of people that you trust without thinking about it. The type of person that, through their presence alone, helps others feel safe enough to show their true colors. 

That's what authentic leadership is all about: inspiring the people around you to bring their best assets to the table--themselves. And the more that such a leader can embody their own values, practice what they preach, and demonstrate that authenticity, the more their peers embrace their strengths, weaknesses, and the qualities that make them unique. 

Trust, something that cannot be purchased, is created through relationships with others. Not just any relationships though--genuine relationships that are founded on connection and mutual vulnerability are required to build meaningful, enduring trust.  

And that's the value of authenticity, building trust within an organization one relationship at a time, and creating a winning culture that encourages collaboration--something that's only possible when people aren't holding themselves back due to fear of judgement. 

Unfortunately, the road to authenticity has many roadblocks--things that must be overcome to unleash your true potential.

Below is a list of five common barriers to living an authentic life. 

1. Negative past experiences when being honest, open, and vulnerable. 

At one point in your life, you were a cuter, younger version of yourself when you received messages--from peers, family, friends, or society--that you were unacceptable and needed to change. Part of discovering your authentic self and sharing that with others involves working through these uncomfortable feelings and understanding how previous experiences impact your current state. 

2. Fear of taking risks to build trust with others. 

Regardless of previous experiences, some people are just afraid to build trust with others. Building trust, after all, requires that you take risks--that you're vulnerable, open, and honest--and that, no matter how confident you feel, can be scary. You must overcome your fear and take risks to unleash your authenticity. 

3. Focusing on anything other than the present moment. 

The present moment is where authenticity is engaged. After all, it's the only time that you can create changes or make decisions, which is why ruminating on the past or fixating on the future is problematic to your growth--it does nothing but block you from your efficacy. 

4. Imagining that you can and should work through difficulties alone.

If you think that you can heal and grow into your authentic self alone, you're wrong. Your wounds were created by others, which is why you must connect with others to heal. 

Authenticity requires that you embrace vulnerability. And one of the best places to do that is with a professional coach or licensed therapist, so that you can, after healing and growing, build those valuable relationships in all aspects of your life.  

5. Thinking that authenticity is a goal, rather than a state of being. 

Our hyper-competitive, instant gratification society brainwashes people into focusing on the outcome rather than the process. If you don't fall in love with the process of self-development, then you won't see the results. 

Authenticity isn't a goal that you can achieve, it's a moment-to-moment practice of listening to your intuition, practicing what you preach, and being vulnerable in your interactions. It's building self-awareness of your strengths, weaknesses, and areas of growth--while actively working to improve yourself as a holistic human being.

It's not something that you can simply check off your to-do list and move on. And pretending otherwise does yourself a disservice--of thinking that you're authentic when you're really just self-involved and stuck in your ways. 

Avoid that entire trap of thinking that authenticity is a goal you can achieve or object you can acquire and get back to the basic practices that lead to self-growth. That's what real leaders do. 

Published on: Jul 25, 2018