We’ve moved from Purpose to Authenticity, another deeply personal and intense subject. As a leader, you could do worse than developing your purpose and focusing on being authentic.
The quote in the title of this article is from Steve Jobs and I think it sums up the importance of being authentic perfectly.
It is not always easy being authentic, societal and peer pressure, keeping up with the Kardashian’s (or keeping up with Bob living in that big house down the road, always on holiday and driving around in his fancy SUV ), unconscious bias and constant media bombardment mean that it is sometimes difficult to be authentic.
Speaking from personal experience, I know that it isn’t always easy, because I have spent half my adult life not being completely authentic (but not anymore).
As difficult as it can be you don’t need me waxing lyrical about authenticity for pages and pages because the concept is simple, it’s the execution that is difficult. So, I’ll keep it short (sighs of relief from the bleachers), before we move onto Alignment in the next Leadership article.
Three more great quotes on Authenticity:
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde
“Being yourself is among the best advice I have ever received. Yourself is always the best version of you.” Richard Branson
“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
Before I tackle the ‘why’ and ‘how to’, I want to cover that being more authentic does not mean that you will be smarter or nicer than your neighbour, who is less authentic (remember that guy with the fancy SUV?). Authenticity does not automatically equal intelligence or success, let’s be honest most of us have met a few authentic d#ckheads in our time!
However, I believe it will help you to be happier. And am an optimist, believing that the vast majority of us are good people. So, if more of the good people increase their authenticity then the better off we are as a society.
Why is being authentic so important?
- Stupid question really… The more authentic you are then the happier you are going to be – that should be intuitive – it is just common sense
- In a recent leadership survey, more than 1,300 Australian professionals said that integrity and authenticity is the number one leadership trait that they look for in their leaders. More important than a track record of success, work ethic and creativity combined! Therefore, if you want to ‘get ahead’, listen to what your colleagues are looking for in their leaders. Source: The Future of Leadership Report
- In my view, if you’re authentic you will be more confident, in part because you don’t need people or society’s approval as much, which also makes you happier
- You will find it easier to deal with people who do not agree with you. Why? Because if you’re being authentic to yourself, then you realise that it doesn’t matter so much whether everyone agrees with you or not. What matters is that you are ‘running your own race’, and the more authentic it is, the less likely you will be worrying about what other people think. Everyone can run their own bloody race (as long we don’t bang into each other).
How can you be more authentic?
It starts with awareness, you cannot change something unless you are aware of it. And speaking from my own personal experience, the more aware I became of who and what I was (peeled back the onion so to speak) the more authentic I became.
There are dozens of qualified coaches out there who know the right questions to ask, and there are plenty of good books for those of you who are ‘self-starters’. One book that I like with evidence-based practical advice is by Anthony Grant PhD and Jane Greene: Amazon; It’s your life. What are you going to do with it?
Alternatively, if you want to start now then find some time and a quiet space to ask yourself these two questions below.
- What would your perfect day look like? What are you doing for work? For play? Where are you living? What are your hobbies?
- Write your retirement speech. Imagine you’re in a room full of your family and friends and you’re telling them about what you’ve been doing for the last 20+ years, the highs and lows, the difference you’ve made, etc.
Once you’ve done these two exercises, slept on it and reviewed your answers, you can then decide whether you’re on the right path… If you’re not then do some more self-analysis, talk to someone, buy a book, Google some articles on this stuff – the information is out there if you look!
Authenticity, for some it’s easy and for others not so… Up until recently I was pretty authentic in my personal life, however, only about 50% in my professional life. Now I’m close to 90% on both fronts (no one is perfect!), and whilst it’s not always easy, in my experience its bloody rewarding trying to be authentic.
At the end of the day what’s the alternative… Living someone else’s life?
Thanks as always for listening. Cheers, Gareth
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any other person, organisation, employer or company. The author is a consultant and coach focused on improving performance. I draw on 25 years corporate experience, a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and a Masters of Business Administration.
Originally published at www.linkedin.com