Updated: May 30, 2019
Every morning I walk my son to school. It’s arguably the best part of my day. As we plod along, I have the unique privilege of listening to everything on his mind from hockey, friendships and school, to the many frustrations and complexities associated with being 8 years old.
During these precious 20 minutes, I do very little talking. I don’t judge, advise or try to find the “teaching moment”. I just listen and ask questions so I may understand him a little more every day. What I get in return is the purest form of authenticity, grounded in trust and safety.
As he gets older, he will experience more victories and hurts than he can imagine at the present time. He will meet others who will shape his view of the world, both positively and negatively. He will make important decisions on what to believe, say and do in certain environments.
This is a life process that happens to us all. As leaders, we make similar decisions on how we want to show up to the people we lead. The question I ask is this: How comfortable are you showing your authentic self at work? If one of your team members were to run into you and your family at the grocery store, would they see a different version of you? If so, would they be surprised at the difference?
Showing your authentic self as a leader is no longer something to diminish or hide from at work. The greatest leaders I’ve known are those who can show their “scars and bruises” with a sense of pride, humility and openness on what they’ve learned along the way. They view the world with curiosity and an attitude that reveals they are always learning how to be the best version of themselves.
If this is something you are working on in your own leadership development, I’ve shared a few simple exercises below to help you be a little more authentic every day.
Start from within:
The most authentic leaders have great self-awareness. Talk to yourself often and ask questions on what you think and how you are feeling.
Be honest (only you will hear it!). Better yet, write your thoughts down every few days. I’ve kept a journal for the past 6 years and write in it at least once a week. It’s fascinating to review how I’ve transformed my thinking over the years.
Write your story:
Take a few hours out of your week and write the story of your life. It does not have to be a novel, just a few pages of who you are, where you came from and what your values are. Include your purpose, life goals and professional goals. What have you achieved so far? What is there left to achieve? If you feel you don’t have a story to tell, you are 100% mistaken.
Tell your story:
Find someone you trust and tell your story openly and honestly. Let them ask questions and answer them honestly. If you want to inspire them, tell them what you learned from your experiences and how it’s made you into the person you are today.
There is great value in speaking your truth. The more you share your story, the more authentic you will appear to the people around you.
Being an authentic leader, parent, friend and human is easy to achieve. It starts with self-awareness and a network of people who trust and support you. Those supporters will soon become your followers.
How do you develop and show your authentic leadership? Please share your thoughts!