When I drive to work each morning I always go with the intention to be the best leader I can be. I'm determined to lead with as much authenticity and heart as I can muster. Why? Because effective leadership for me is all about relationships and connections with people and to be successful in that, authenticity is a major player.
Leadership pulls on the full spectrum of my emotions. It requires me to have a high level of awareness about my own emotions and the ways I regulate those emotions, daily. It stretches me & challenges me like nothing else emotionally or mentally, every single day.
During my work days I make mistakes, say the wrong things sometimes and respond from my ego more often than I'd like.
I listen, read, gather knowledge, learn, practice, trip up and keep learning. That's how the cycle looks for me each day.
Despite working in a sector that is rife with government regulations, policies, rules and guidelines, it is also a place of people. It has been my deepest desire, since first becoming a deputy principal, to lead with as much heart and authenticity as I can. I have consciously tried to blend soulful practices with the hard edge of the government sector, the yin and the yang, the masculine and the feminine, the heart-centered practices with the policies.
Authenticity has always been an intriguing concept to me. When Brene Brown started publishing researched work on this topic I was elated that finally there was someone shedding light on the importance of topics such as this in the workplace.
What if I lead with too much heart? Will people see me as being too soft? What if I am too vulnerable? Will I lose people's respect? What if I share too much and then regret people knowing a part of me that leaders shouldn't share? These are the questions I've had for over 10 years.
Before I started reading Brown's work I always thought authenticity was a quality you either have or don't have. But as I read I learnt that it is actually a practice - a conscious choice of how we want to live. According to Brown, it's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.
"Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we are." (Brown, 2010)
Choosing authenticity means;
cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.
Generally, authentic leaders are positive people with truthful self-concepts who promote openness.
Authentic leaders are self aware individuals who are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. They know that this process is a life long journey. They also show their real selves to their followers. They do not act one way in private and another way in public. They don't hide their mistakes out of fear of looking weak.
Authentic leaders lead with their heart (my personal favourite) not just their minds. They communicate in a direct manner but with empathy. They are not afraid to show their emotions and show their employees their vulnerable side.
Learning to be ourselves fully takes courage and is a life-long journey. Not concerning ourselves with the reactions, judgements or expectations of others can be challenging. Regardless of how self assured we feel there will always be times when we feel afraid to be ourselves. That's called being human.
As I head into work tomorrow, I go with the intention that I go with everyday - to be the best leader I can be. Part of this means practicing being the most authentic person I can be. I will slip up a lot but I'm always moving forward. Here's to authentic leadership and keeping it real.