“Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet
— thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing — consistently.
This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.”
How do I define authenticity? Well: being authentic is being genuine; it means you are coming from a sincere place deep inside. When we are authentic, we are ourselves – not what we think or have been told that we should be. It means we are standing by our own values and beliefs.
So why is authenticity important for leaders? Because authenticity enables you to create an environment of vulnerability, so people feel they can be themselves around you. It gives you access to the key ingredient to great leadership: true rapport. Once you’ve built a connection with your team you’ll get their commitment – which, in turn, gives you the key to guiding your team to success.
How to get there, you wonder? Well, by beginning to find your authentic self. Here are some steps you can take to get there.
Find your purpose
Finding purpose means making very clear what you want to do with your life. This, in turn, will enhance your motivation and your drive in your leadership work. It will also enhance people’s commitment: Most people prefer to be led by someone with a specific vision and goal.
In other words, as a leader, you need to know your Why. As Simon Sinek put it, “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
To find purpose, you ask yourself a set of questions, none of them very easy to answer – questions designed to bring out your true inner self:
Who am I?
What do I want?
What makes me happy?
Who is my mentor?
Take time to reflect and contemplate on these questions, let them sink deeply into your heart and mind. The answers will come to you with time.
Taking time for this contemplation, taking time for yourself and the tough questions of life, is key to finding the man/woman you truly are.
What do I mean by that? Well, you find wisdom by searching the truth in all matters – above all, the truth in your own beliefs and values. As the old saying goes, we are what we believe in – and if we are capable of challenging our own beliefs and redirect them in such a way that they will support our purpose, we will find our truth.
This truth you have found will create integrity in your relationships, which, in turn, will help you seek and pursue your purpose.
It requires quite some courage to seek the truth in what we feel and think. But you will find it to be worthwhile – as truthfulness in everything you do is an essential ingredient to your integrity as a leader.
Find continuous growth though learning
When we cling to what we know, never seeking to push the boundaries, we become prisoners of our own minds. In that sense, knowledge is not only power – it can also keep us from evolving as a person and leader. Conversely, continuous learning awakens our true self, as knowledge enhances our awareness of ourselves and our ability to evolve.
So, keep evolving. The progress of your team, its ability to develop and expand successfully, both hinge on your own personal evolution.
Mindfulness is an old Buddhist practice which has recently found its way into the work place. The principle is quite simple: It is about being aware of yourself and your surroundings, simply observing things as they are, and not judging them. By the same token, it is being aware of your thoughts and feelings without immediately reacting to them. By refraining from judgment, instead of simply reacting to your environment you can respond wisely.
In his book “The miracle of mindfulness,” Thich Nhat Hanh explains the practices required to reach this “non-discriminative state of mind” and its amazing benefits. As a matter of fact, practicing mindfulness at work has been proven to reduce stress, lower the blood pressure, improve people’s memory, and even reduce depression.
As a leader, practicing mindfulness keeps you grounded, enhances your focus, your creativity and the joy you experience in your work – which, in turn, deepens your journey to your authentic self.
I am deeply and truly convinced that authenticity is a key ingredient to being a successful leader: After all, everything needs to start and end with you.