Leading With Your Authentic Voice

Who knew that an eighteen-hour summer road trip to and from Central Oregon would highlight the importance of authenticity in leadership?

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As my nephew James and I drove to Oregon for vacation, he dj-ed the hottest country music tunes. If you haven’t heard the name Morgan Wallen, like me you’re probably not tuned into the latest country music, or you’re over 40. Morgan was a runner-up in The Voice television show a few years back, but voted off early for his generic style. In interviews, Morgan shared that he was just beginning to find his voice and was urged to sing conventional pop tunes by the producers. He had also adopted a raspy-edged sound, which was not only ruining his vocal chords and talent, but did not honor his love of country music and roots in Eastern Tennessee. Time has proven the producers wrong. When Morgan followed his natural instincts, his first single, The Way I Talk, went to number #1 on the country charts. Rather than hiding his twangy country drawl, he emphasized it. He quickly became one of the top artists in country music.

In my coaching work, I’ve found that some managers and executives have lost their authentic voices. The result can be career stagnation or loss of meaning in their lives. Somehow they have adopted too many leadership clichés, corporate mission statements, and default banter, which really wasn’t who they were all along. One of my mentor coaches, Robert Holden, PhD., says, “If there is something missing, it’s probably you.”

Most great coaching and leadership development really has to do with the permission to return to your unique skills, gifts and talents.

Same thing with Jimmie Allen (again, not someone that I was familiar with until my trip to Oregon.) Jimmie Allen has already made history as the first black artist to launch a career with two consecutive No. 1 hits on country radio. Rolling Stone raved that Allen’s debut “challenges the narrowly defined model of what constitutes a next big thing in country music in 2018.” Jimmie has also collaborated with Charley Pride, Darius Rucker and even Nelly to create unique mixes and a signature sound, combining his love of country and hip hop.

As Oprah would say, “When you see this kind of power shining through someone in all its truth and certainty, it’s irresistible, inspiring and elevating.”

So the next time you feel that your authenticity or vulnerability may be a liability, consider it an asset. You might not make Billboard’s or Forbes top 100, but at perhaps your distinct and pioneering leadership will be something folks are waiting to hear – particularly in this new world we’re in.

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