What is Authentic Leadership?

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you someone else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

About 10 years ago, I needed some paint. I can’t remember the color or even what I was painting, but I do remember my visit to the paint store.  I walked into the store and was greeted warmly by one of the attendants.  She asked what I was doing, listened to my response and asked questions to clarify. She then proceeded to provide thoughtful options and her reasoning for suggesting them.  I asked a lot of questions, as I usually do when I’m making a purchase that involves choosing between cost and quality. 

I remember feeling completely comfortable, heard, and not at any time did I feel rushed or that I was intruding on her work day. She held my needs as her primary interest in that moment, and her commitment to helping me was genuine.  She wasn’t trying to rush, push me into a quick decision or act in a way that others expected her to act – she was authentic.
Holding the primary interest of your audience in mind when communicating helps you to be a more effective leader . Being authentic also accomplishes this goal, and makes your influence more powerful and long-lasting.

When we accept who we are in this moment and release the pressures from expectations, self-limiting beliefs or memes, leadership becomes instinctive, natural – and seemingly effortless. We become aligned with who we are. When this happens, we feel a sense of purpose, fulfilment and joy. In this space we can allow ourselves to just be, and influence and serve the world around us with authenticity.

We are dynamic individuals and as we change so will the space where we feel authentic.  As we embrace this change with openness and curiosity we can enable ourselves to more easily live with authenticity.
Here are some suggestions to help you be authentic:

  1. Build personal awareness
    1. Journaling regularly about your thoughts, reactions and discoveries can help to reveal and reinforce how you influence the world and when you are at your best.
    2. Hiring a life coach is a great way to discover and explore your values, what expectations you hold for yourself, which beliefs support you and which ones hold you back.
  2. Provide Service
    1. Serving others can help you learn in numerous ways.  It can reveal the motivation for your actions and reactions and give you a chance to do things outside of your comfort zone. Usually, if given with the welfare of others in mind, it provides a feeling of satisfaction.
    2. Service can be both a place of reprieve from expectations and a place where the expectations of behavior you hold for yourself or others is revealed. Use this opportunity to build awareness of which thoughts, feelings and reactions you have and explore them.
  3. Meditate
    1. Regular meditation can allow an individual the quiet space needed to let go of expectations and external cares and pressures. It can also calm the mind as well as provide many other health and related benefits.[i]

One of the greatest benefits of being authentic is that whether they consciously notice it or not, other people can feel it, and it naturally gives them permission to be authentic as well.  This is why I felt so at ease, listened to and cared for by the paint store attendant.  It is also why I remember the experience 10 years later. 

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