Contributed by CEO Coach Henna Inam
Are you an authentic leader? It’s a big topic. Carl Jung said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” It’s the topic of my upcoming book. It’s a topic that’s very personal to me and it’s a topic that is very universal. We feel our best and most inspired when we can be authentic – and we create the greatest contributions to our workplaces when this happens. Yet, there are many challenges to our being authentic leaders.
One of them is love. For Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write a blog post about “what’s love got to do with it” – with being authentic.
What Prevents us from Being Authentic?
For women in particular, there are unconscious biases in the organizations we work within that heighten the “costs” of authenticity – of being different. In many organizations the view of what it means to be a leader is very different from the leadership purpose and values we hold. So unconsciously we adapt. It’s like living in a foreign country where you don’t know the rules or the culture very well – except you don’t know that you’re living in a foreign country…just something feels off. I write about that in my blog post “Confessions of a Corporate Dropout.”
There are also lots of personal barriers we each have to our own authenticity. It’s our very human desire to “fit in.” It’s our very human desire to “be liked” by others. It’s our very human desire to conform to the ideal standard that someone created for us. So we constantly compare ourselves to others or to the ideal, and we find ourselves lacking. For some of us, it’s the fear of “not following the rules” that we’ve been taught to follow since kindergarten. In these ways we hold ourselves back from being our full selves, to “stand out” by being different and in doing so reach our full potential.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
I recently read a quote from Maya Angelou that stuck with me. She says, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, liking how you do it.” Taking inspiration from her, I would say “Authenticity is loving yourself, loving what you do, and loving how you do it.” How can we get there when the culture we live and work in is trying it’s best to have us conform to some ideal standard of how we should be? It starts with courage. The Latin root of the word courage is “cor” – in French “coeur”- heart, our innermost feelings, our inner strength.
There can be no authenticity unless we start connecting to ourselves, our passions, our own inner voice. When we do this we find what it is that we are most passionate about, what is a leadership purpose that ignites a fire in us, and how we want to fully express this in the work we do, so our work becomes our calling.
The first place to start is a full acceptance and love of who we are, just as we are, in this moment. Author Brene Brown writes: “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
A Leadership Practice
Here’s a leadership practice to move toward greater authenticity. Write the answers to these three questions:
- What are all the things you love about your personal leadership?
- What are weaknesses that you perceive in yourself? Acknowledge them as part of being human without judging yourself.
- What are your greatest moments of joy in your work (moments when you were in complete flow)?
For me, what I love about my leadership is my ability to spark others toward their potential – for them to see and believe in themselves because I believe in myself, and I believe in them.
The areas where I am a work in progress is my impatience, the insufficient time I spend with my family (I’m a workaholic), and how I can often be insensitive to others’ feelings because I am in my own world. Once I can see these things about myself as part of being human, without disliking myself for them, I can start to fully express my authenticity. My moments of greatest joy are when I am standing in my leadership purpose and helping others to do the same.
That’s all. We just need to answer these three simple questions. As we connect with these feelings every day we move closer to our leadership authenticity – and toward a greater love of ourselves and the work we do. As we step into our authenticity, we step into our power. When we tap into what makes us unique, it’s like coming home to ourselves. We move closer to our greatest leadership contributions to others and to our well being.
If you’d like to connect with me to discover your own authenticity, I would welcome the connection.
Henna Inam is CEO of Transformational Leadership Inc., a company focused on helping women achieve their potential to be transformational leaders. A former C-Suite executive with Fortune 500 companies, her passion is to help leaders be successful, deeply engaged, and create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth and engagement. Connect @hennainam. Subscribe to her blog at www.transformleaders.tv.