One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is feeling like you need to have it all together, all the time. Simply put, I think that we often place leaders in a position that makes them feel like they cannot show any weakness. The result? Pretentious leaders who put up a facade and project an image that is not really representative of who they are, but instead who they think they need to be based upon the opinion of others.
In reality, true leadership is about being authentic. It’s about being comfortable with who you are, weaknesses and all. It’s about admitting that you don’t have all of the answers (ever had a leader who thought they knew everything?). Authenticity is about being real, and genuine. These qualities are refreshing. And in many ways they are rare in our leaders today, unfortunately.
What are the characteristics of an authentic leader?
Authentic leaders are transparent, vulnerable, and secure.
They are transparent enough to tell you the truth, even though it might hurt a little.
They are vulnerable enough to admit weakness, even though it might make them look bad.
And they are secure enough to ask for help, even though their pride tells them to go it alone.
The detractors would say that exhibiting these qualities weakens your leadership, but in reality it actually strengthens it. People will wholeheartedly follow an authentic leader all day long.
This is simple wisdom for becoming a more authentic leader, and in the process a more effective and respected leader. However, it’s not so simple to implement. It’s something that you have to work at day in and day out. The good news is that you can work on it, as long as your heart is in the right place and you’re willing to grow by being stretched and challenged.
By definition, you can’t fake authenticity. You just have to become comfortable with who you are, and in the process, become comfortable with sharing your true self with those that you lead. This will not only change the way you lead, but it will also strengthen the relationships you have with your team.
Authenticity is where transformational change begins.
I know of nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all-important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who you are. -Charles Swindoll
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. -Mother Theresa
Be yourself–not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be. -Henry David Thoreau