Want to be a better leader? Be true to yourself
Being ‘authentic’ is a popular concept at the moment, but what does authenticity look like?
Surely you are ‘authentically you’ just by existing? Well, not exactly. We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect. The perfect leader, the perfect parent, the perfect friend.
The good news is that perfection isn’t necessary.
You’re already good enough! The first step is to accept yourself for who you are.
I like to think of authenticity as a bit like the wonky veg you can get in the supermarket. It used to be considered as the poor relation of the ‘perfect’ veg, but people are coming to realise that paying more for perfectly shaped veg is ludicrous.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wonky veg.
It tastes the same and has the same nutritional value as the ‘perfect’ veg. If anything, it’s better because it’s more authentic.
This doesn’t mean there’s no place for learning new skills and developing yourself. But as a leadership coach I believe it’s important to develop yourself in the right way. Trying to force yourself to be something you’re not won’t be healthy for you in the long run.
You have to know yourself before you can develop yourself.
Your identity is stamped all the way through you, like a stick of rock. The way you approach problems, how you manage relationships, even your food choices. Your identity is everything you are. Most of us, however, have several sub-identities – a particular version of ourselves that we present depending on the circumstances or people we’re around.
Consider how you behave with your own children, and compare that to how you behave with your parents. You’re still the same person, but you adopt a different sub-identity where you dial up or dial down certain aspects of your main identity to suit the situation.
As a leader, you might see these subtle sub-identities in how you behave with your own teams compared to how you might behave in a meeting with directors.
Self-awareness and self-acceptance should be the first steps in developing yourself.
When you understand who you are, what’s important to you, and what you want to achieve in life, then you can focus on developing yourself in a way that supports that.
When I’m working with leaders, I like to start with identifying their personal values. This gives them a big picture idea of what matters to them. Once they start aligning their leadership practice with their values, they often start to see big results.
You can be a great leader while being true to yourself
When you allow your true self to shine through your leadership style, you really come into your own as a leader. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot to admire and learn from other leaders, but when you adopt styles and techniques that keep you true to yourself, that’s when you start to become a really great leader.
If you model yourself after other people too much, you’ll end up losing a bit of yourself in the process. You might love Richard Branson’s laid-back and easy-going leadership style, but it may not be true to your personality and values.
Lots of the senior leaders I speak to feel that they can’t really be themselves at work. They feel a lot of pressure to fit into a particular leadership mould. The problem with this is that over time it can be very draining, as you’re playing out your ‘pretend self’. Compared to when you’re being true to yourself, leadership is energising.
Want to be true to yourself?
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