A blog about leadership and confidence.

by Lisa Hinz     •      Leadership Development

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Authenticity as a Leader

authentic leadership
Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

Authenticity might be an overused word, but hey, it’s not the word’s fault.


It’s a character trait that demands respect. As I heard someone once say, “it’s overused but not overdone.” I agree. I think the word continues to deserve some attention and is still worth talking about.


To be authentic is to be your true self.  It’s being genuine and living according to your beliefs and values, not someone else’s.


Now – apply that to you and your career. Do you feel you can be your true self at work or do you feel like you have to be a different version of yourself or a version of someone else?


It’s not uncommon to hear people say they don’t feel they can be themselves at work. There can be a multitude of reasons why. Maybe the company culture doesn’t fit your personality. Maybe the job you’re in isn’t aligned with your skills, interests, or values. Maybe you’re battling imposter syndrome.  Maybe you’re in a new position with more responsibility and you feel you need to be someone different now.


Pyschology Today provides a great definition: “Authenticity is about congruence between our deeper values and beliefs (i.e., a “true self”) and our actions.”


There is a key word here, which is values.  Do you know what your personal core values are and are you upholding them?  When you’re not acting according to your values, you’re not being authentic.


When you match your natural style, beliefs, and values to the way you live and lead instead of forcing it, you become the authentic leader who is a natural extension of who YOU already are and not a forced version of who you THINK you should TRY to be.


I quote this following statement from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching: “When you operate from a place of authenticity, you create effortless power. For both short- and long-term benefits, this works better than force, or as it has been called, powerless effort.”


Effortless power vs. powerless effort.  Wow.  Think about that.  If you’ve spent your time trying to emulate someone else in order to be who you think you should be, it becomes exhausting. You might start off strong, but eventually your emulation weakens because you are in a constant state of trying rather than in a state of simply being.


We often try to imitate others because that’s how we’ve learned throughout life. You learned how to tie your shoes because someone showed you how to do it – you imitated them. You saw the clothes the popular kids in school were wearing and wanted the same type of clothes – so you imitated them.  Endless examples exist.


If we see someone who lives a life that we want to model or is in a position that we desire to be in, it’s normal to want to “imitate” that person.


A friend who was moving into an executive level position and taking over a large team asked me my opinion on if she could remain being herself once she took on this position. Could she still be fun and joke around with people like she did in the past or did she now need to take on a completely different persona to meet what she felt were the expectations of her new role?


I asked her three questions:

  1. Did anyone tell you that you need to change?
  2. You were promoted based on the current version of you – what does that tell you?
  3. How effective do you feel you will be long-term if you’re trying to be someone other than your true self?


And sure, there is a difference between taking on certain leadership traits needed to be successful in her new role vs taking on an entirely new persona. She was referring to the latter.


Authentic leaders have an ease about them. They connect more easily and strongly with their people. They are empathetic and aware of the impacts of decisions and communications. People want to work for them.


Who do you think gets more results - the leader who people want to work for or the leader who people have to work for?  When people want to do something, they are bought into it.  When people have to do something, they are being forced into it. The difference between the two can mean the difference between retention and attrition. It can mean the difference between success and failure.


Because each of us goes through life under the influence of what we’ve been taught, we often neglect utilizing our own critical thinking and conscious decision-making. While we have learned many great things from those around us, how often do we develop the self-mastery to consciously develop our own values and beliefs that feel right to US and live accordingly? I’ve learned from amazing people over the years, but that doesn’t mean that their values and their way of doing things align with my values and how I should approach things.


I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine living in a world where we are all the exact same. We all act the same, talk the same, look the same, think the same. No thank you.


If you feel pressured to be someone other than yourself, I challenge you to give your true self a chance first. See how it goes. You might start to see others trying to emulate you.  You’ve got gifts and skills that need the opportunity to bask in the sunlight. Imagine what they might blossom into if given a chance?


There’s a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that wraps this up in a nice package with a bow on top: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”


You nailed that one, Ralph.


I leave you with these three questions:

  1. How does NOT being authentic affect your performance?
  2. If you don’t feel you are being authentic, what’s preventing you from doing so?
  3. Powerless effort – or effortless power? Which do you choose?
Lisa Hinz Writing

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