I have shared to you previously the secrets of the successful, is IMAGE. An acronym that means I is for Innovation (if you haven't read it yet, read here), M is for Mastery (you can find it here), the next letter is "A". What is it for?
"A" is for Authenticity. The old model of leadership, as I've mentioned before was very much about power you get from the authority of your position and the influence you'd have from a title, as you've now learned so well. But in this radically new period of business, your ability to have an impact and make a contribution comes more from who you are as a person than from the authority you receive by your placement on some org chart. It's never been so important to be trustworthy. It's never been so important to be someone others respect. It's never been so important to keep the promises you make to your teammates and customers. And it's never been so essential to be authentic. I should also add that it's never been so hard to show authenticity because of all the social pressure to be like everyone else. Media, our peers, and the world around us pound us relentlessly with messages designed to have us live their values versus our own. There's a huge pull to behave like the majority. But leadership really is about closing your ears to the noisy voices of others so you can more clearly hear the mission and call within yourself. Makes me think of the words of Dr. Seuss: "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." And that's authenticity is all about. It's about feeling really safe in your own skin and learning to trust yourself so that you work under your values, express your original voice, and be the best you can be. It's about knowing who you are, what you stand for, and then having the courage to be yourself - in every situation rather than only when it's convenient. It's about being real, consistent, and congruent so who you are on the inside is reflected by the way you perform on the outside. And being authentic and true to yourself also means that you meet your potential and work at brilliance - because that's what you truly are.
And the great American Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us 'To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.'
Jack Welch used "Don't lose yourself on the way to the top."
Warren Buffett made the point equally neatly when he observed: "There will never be a better you than you."
Oscar Wilde noted: "Be Yourself. Everyone else is taken."
Authenticity is one of the deepest things Leaders should exemplify. Few things are as powerful when it comes to being a leader interested in positively influencing all those around you than being a person who's comfortable in your own self and fully presenting all you truly are.
To be authentic isn't just about being true to your values. Being authentic means being true to your talents. When you go to work every day and present your leadership best, that's a superb example of authenticity in action - and being in alignment.
I can tell a person who is authentic a mile away. I can sniff their sincerity and sense their realness. And their passion for greatness touches the longing for greatness within me. And that allows me to relate to them. When you give yourself permission to be open, real and brilliant around others, you give others permission to be open, real and brilliant around you. Just being around makes them feel safe - and heroic. They begin to relax and open up. Trust grows. And amazing things start to happen.
"Authenticity is about being true to who you are, even when everyone around you wants to be someone else," said basketball great Michael Jordan. In his book Driven from Within he makes a key point: stay committed to your mission, values, and the full self-expression of your inner leader even when people doubt you. When people say you'll fail or suggest you're not good enough, stand strong in your own skin and don't let them tear you down. Because leadership has a lot to do with believing in yourself when no one else believes in you."
And Bono, the U2 singer, spoke of the importance of authenticity in the new world of ours in these words: "Please, let go of your ego, please be you and no one else. You are so beautiful how you are."
Just remember that the more you feed your ego - which is nothing more than the artificial part of you that you've constructed to receive approval from the majority - and lose sight of who you really are at your core, the hungrier the ego will get.
So your ego is the social part of ourselves that has grown the more we've tried to become the people the world around us wants us to be versus the people we truly are.
I remember reading a story of a student who met a wise elder from his community on the street one day. The young man admired the elder fro his achievements as well as for his strength of character. He asked the wise man if he ever had weak thoughts and if he ever succumbed to the allure of the ego, which wants us to run our lives by superficial attractions like titles and social status. The elder replied: "Of course, I have weak thoughts and my ego tries to get me off track every single day. This happens because I'm human being. But I also have my authenticity side, which my essential nature and all I really am. That part of me creates the noble and brave thoughts - and keeps me on track to become my greatest self. So it's almost as if I have two dogs inside me. A good dog that wants to lead me to where I dream of going, and that bad dog that tries to take me off my ideal path.' So which one wins? asked the student. That's easy, replied the elder. "The one I feed the most."
Leaders should check their egos at the front door every morning before they walk into work. Rather than slavishly obsessing about pursuits like larger offices and bigger pay checks that society wants us to run our lives by, they harness their complete focus and awesome capabilities on doing their best work, making a difference in the lives of their teammates and customers, and building a better organization. Rather than defining their success by what they get, they define their success by what they give. That not only makes them special in the eyes of everyone around them, it also fills them up with such a sense of fulfilment and happiness. Because they know they are spending their lives well, in pursuit of a meaningful cause.
If you did learn something from this article, pay it forward. Share it to a friend who might just need this in his or her leadership in life. May your dreams come true! 🙂