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We are all unique. Not everyone leads the same way. Confidence comes from using leadership techniques that are natural to you. As you enter 2018, begin by developing a leadership style that is not only effective but also allows you to feel comfortable in being the authentic you.
What is Authentic Leadership?
Authentic leadership is not speaking whatever comes to mind. Authentic leadership is choosing your words carefully to encourage others to contribute and collaborate. Authentic leadership is not my way or the highway. Authenticity is about self-reflection and developing a deep understanding our motivations, aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses.
You might think that authentic leadership is just about being yourself. On the one hand you would be right, but on the other hand, it isn’t that simple. Do you have a clear understanding of who you are and what is important to you? Are you the best “you” that you can be? Who do you want to be? How will you change?
Step One: Love Yourself
Everyone has a story. We have all had bad things happen or less than favorable situations. These stories define who we are; they become the fabric of our lives. But when bad things happen, it can bring fear or doubt into our minds. Or even worse we can live with anger and resentment. The key is to get through all of those challenges and feel at peace with the person you become. Learn to love who you are – all the warts, blemishes, and imperfections.
We are often our own worst critics, holding ourselves to impossible standards. For most of us, our strengths are not omnipresent but instead shine at moments. It may be unreasonable to expect that we are going to exceed everyone’s expectations all the time. We can learn to tap into our greatness more often and develop the ability to treat ourselves with fairness.
Also, it is important to surround ourselves with people who believe in us and encourage us to become better. Often the people we love and trust the most put us into a box – of what they expect or perceive as our limitations. The people with the greatest influence in our lives should be people who believe that we can do anything. Listening to negative voices changes our perception of ourselves. Learn to love yourself, and your authenticity will shine.
Step Two: Let Go of Perfection
What are you holding onto in life that is holding you back? Were you fired from a job unjustly? Do you still hold onto anger? We are all human and will make mistakes. Many of us have destructive behaviors that take away from our success – the figurative “chip” on our shoulder that we can’t quite let go of and move on.
The illusion of perfection manifests itself in different ways. The first is holding ourselves to a higher standard or an impossible level of quality. In this case, we don’t view our achievements as a success but instead, point to the little things we did wrong as failures. The second illusion of perfection is placing blame instead of accepting responsibility. To lead requires that you take ownership of mistakes, accept accountability and find a path to success. The third illusion of perfection is holding onto anger (of ourselves or others) instead of finding forgiveness.
We need to become comfortable with being imperfect and love it. No one is perfect, and no matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect. Once we accept the inevitable mistakes and even potential failures – we can begin to see the world as one great big opportunity to learn about ourselves and others. And remember, forgiveness heals instantly.
Step Three: Take Care of Yourself First
What do you do every day just for you? We all have things in our lives that cause stress: family, children, traffic on the highway, a car that won’t start, a leaky roof. It seems like as soon as we tackle one unexpected situation, another lurks around the corner. All of these stresses take a toll on our physical and mental health.
It is important to take time for ourselves and put into our lives things that help us to be the best person we can be. To be healthy, physically AND mentally, we need exercise, healthy food, adequate sleep, and we need to diversify our lives. If we only live in stressful situations day after day, we are likely to empty the tank and impact our long-term health. A side effect of not taking care of ourselves is that we show up in the world in ways we regret later. Are you easy to anger or snap at others? Are you present in the lives of your coworkers or children, or are you so distracted that you barely focus? It is important to love who you are, but you must also learn to respect yourself.
Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. The key to personal improvement is to focus on improving you. Are you taking care of yourself better than you were yesterday? Are you managing this project better than the last project? Don’t compare yourself to someone else. It sets unrealistic expectations and adds more stress to your life. Remember, we are all on our journeys and different points in our learning and development. Set goals for your improvement based on your journey and your goals in life.
Step Four: Clarify What is Important
Values are beliefs that are formed throughout your lifetime that guide your actions. Authenticity comes from defining your core values and living true to those values. Identify one or two words that are at the core of who you are – your core identity. When you have a purpose, it is hard to be distracted from that purpose. Inner values are extremely important. If we compromise what is important to us, then we diminish ourselves and our respect for ourselves.
Authentic leadership is about leading from your authentic self. What you value about yourself, the fundamental beliefs that are important to you – are at the root of your authentic self. It is important to walk the walk, do what you say, and deliver on what you promise. Back up your words with your actions and set the example for others.
Step Five: Seize the Opportunity
To learn to lead authentically requires you to take risks and try new things; volunteer in your community, start a project to tackle a problem in your environment, create a new community. To make a difference as a leader, you must take the opportunity to engage in something that makes a difference.
The more experiences you have in your life, the greater your ability to tackle new challenges. Each experience, each chance you take teaches you something about yourself and helps you to understand better your strengths and weaknesses. As Ralph Walsh Emerson said, “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
Living with Authenticity
To lead with authenticity requires to you live your life with authenticity. Learn to love yourself and let go of the mistakes of the past and illusion of perfection. Clarify what brings meaning to your life and take care of yourself so that you can lead others. As you identify new opportunities to explore life, you will become more confident in who you are. But remember, real change is hard work. Be present. Be passionate. And be authentic.